LOGAN — Despite some tense moments and missed opportunities, Utah State started off Mountain West Conference play on the right foot as it defeated Air Force 42-32.
"We needed a win like that bad. We overcame some adversity. We did not play our best game in all three phases. At times we tried to hand it to them. We made mistakes, but we rose to the occasion and made plays when we needed to," said Matt Wells in the postgame press conference. "In years that you have have really good years, you look back and you win some games like that."
Aggie quarterback Jordan Love lit up the Falcons' defense as he finished the night completing 26 of 38 for 356 yards and two touchdowns. Despite holding the ball for only 16:20, Love and the Aggie offense were certainly efficient when the ball was in its hands.
"We knew we were going to have to air it out and attack their secondary, so that's what we did," said Love. "Every time we get the ball, we need to get into the endzone and score points."
"The focus was there needs to be an urgency to finish drives with touchdowns," Wells said. "I think we were pretty decent in the redzone tonight, finishing with touchdowns. That was the key more than time of possession."
But this game certainly had its bumpy moments.
Love fumbled the football at the Utah State 26-yard line with 2:46 left in the first half, but the Aggies proved how well they can respond to adversity. Tipa Galaei blocked the ensuing 40-yard field goal attempt to keep Air Force from taking advantage of the fumble. Seconds later, Love found a wide-open Aaren Vaughns for a 43-yard TD pass to put the Aggies in front 21-14 before the end of the half.
"You see a little bit of them overcoming some adversity and learning how to finish. Obviously its been well documented that we've struggled the last couple of years in terms of close games like that," said Wells. "None of the three phases was our A-game. And that's what makes me a little more proud of that win."
Early in the third quarter, Arion Worthman of Air Force fumbled the ball at the Falcons' 30-yard line that was recovered by Gaje Ferguson. It took just one play for the Aggies to make Air Force pay as Love found Raymond for a 30-yard touchdown to put Utah State up 35-14.
"It seemed like the defense was always on the field because of the way that Air Force controls the ball," said Ferguson. "We found a way to get stops when it was really important. We rallied together. We stayed together. I think we were the tougher team tonight. I know we were the tougher team tonight."
But the Falcons refused to go quietly into the night. The Falcons scored 18 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters. This included a 31-yard Jake Koehnke field goal followed by a 9-yard Kadin Remsberg TD run on the next drive. DJ Hammond III found Kad Waguespack for a two-point conversion to put the game within 10. Then disaster struck as Savon Scarver fumbled a kickoff return, and Air Force's Christopher Musselman scooped and scored to cut Utah State's lead to three.12 comments on this story
However, Utah State wasn't done either as Gerold Bright took the ball 70 yards to the house to give the Aggies a two-score lead with 6:52 left in the game. Up to that point it had been a quiet day for Utah State's running backs, but Bright couldn't have picked a better time for a big play. On the next drive, Air Force drove all the way down to the USU 16-yard line before it turned it over on downs. Air Force forced a Utah State punt, but a booming 67-yard punt by Taylor Hintze flipped the field and ran out the clock.
Now, Utah State has a bye week to get healthy and prepare for BYU on October 5.
"We got one non-league game that will be for a trophy, and it's pretty big for us around here," Wells said. "I've already put the schedule together. We've been pretty decent coming off bye weeks around here. I like our plan. I like how we do it."