PROVO — Utah State came into its matchup versus BYU on Friday known for feasting on big plays and its ability to put up a lot of points. That was on display Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium during the Cougars' 45-20 loss.
The Cougars certainly played a big part in helping the Aggies' cause.
The first big play made by the Aggies, or served up by the Cougars, depending on which way you choose to view it, came midway through the first quarter. With the Cougar offense driving to within Utah State territory, a pass on third down to Micah Simon came one yard short of the marker. On fourth down the Cougar staff opted for some creativity in the form of a play-action pass that resulted in a 56-yard interception return for Utah State linebacker Tipa Galeai.
That play changed the momentum considerably in the Aggies' direction and before the Cougars could regather any momentum, big plays and Cougar mistakes conspired to give the visiting team a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Big plays and mistakes included a facemask penalty on BYU linebacker Zayne Anderson to aide another Aggie score and a fumble lost by Cougar tight end Dallin Holker.
Aiding the Aggies' cause was BYU unable to convert a single play over 20 yards throughout the first half, with the Aggies providing a big 40-yard reception by Carson Terrell and making the Cougars pay dearly for the two lost turnovers.
Things got worse for BYU in the second half.
The Aggies took the opening kickoff and marched 81 yards on 10 plays to go up 28-7 to stunt any semblance of momentum the Cougars may have earned by virtue of scoring late in the first half or by key halftime adjustments. After another Cougar drive stalled the Aggies again put together a long drive for another touchdown, this time going 82 yards over 10 plays to go up 35-7.
Fittingly it was yet another BYU turnover which stunted any hope of a comeback for the home team, as quarterback Tanner Mangum coughed up the football as the final seconds ticked off in the third quarter and the Cougars down 35-13.
The turnover tally gives BYU 10 turnovers over the last two games against Utah State, spanning back to last season, with both those games resulting in blowout losses.
PERSONNEL SHUFFLES: BYU linebacker Zayne Anderson returned to action for the Cougars and recorded eight tackles, six of them solo, as he assumed his outside linebacker position. The senior had missed BYU's two previous games due to injury.
Other changes came with linebacker Sione Takitaki starting at middle linebacker for Butch Pau'u, who was available to play. Senior Matt Hadley started opposite Anderson at outside linebacker for the second straight game.
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson saw action late and led a BYU touchdown drive by going 3-4 for 52 yards through the air while rushing it for 25 yards on just two carries. Wilson wrapped up the scoring drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Gunner Romney.
NO ON NAUFAHU: Former BYU running back Naufahu Tahi was slated to run out the alumni flag for the Cougars, but was likely pulled off the honor due to recently being charged with felony assault. In his place were former BYU linebacker Uona Kaveinga and former cornerback Brandon Bradley.