Utah State's defense and special teams stepped up in a big way as the Aggies escaped Wyoming in Laramie 24-16. While some may call this an ugly win, USU head coach Matt Wells certainly didn't see it that way.
"Defensive-minded reporters and media would think that was a beautiful win, and I couldn't agree more" Wells said to 1280 The Zone after the game. "I'm so proud of our defense. You can't have a championship run without all three phases contributing, and I thought that we absolutely won on special teams and on defense."
Senior safety Jontrell Rocquemore delivered for the Aggie defense with a hand in two turnovers. Rocquemore forced a fumble that Adewale Adeoye recovered in the first half. However, his big play of the game came on Wyoming's opening drive of the second half as he picked off Tyler Vander Waal and returned it 20 yards to the Cowboys' 3-yard line. Darwin Thompson would pick up his second touchdown of the day just one play later.
"Wyoming is a tough place to play," said senior linebacker Chase Christiansen to 1280 The Zone. "Any way you can get it done, that's good enough for us, so we're glad we got the win."
Savon Scarver added his second kickoff returned for a touchdown this season as he went 99 yards to the house. He's now one of only three players to have two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the FBS.
"I'm so happy for Savon. I think that mojo is starting to come back with him," said Wells. "What a really good job by our kickoff return unit."
But the offense simply didn't have a good day in Laramie.
Thompson started the scoring off with a 56-yard touchdown on just the third play of the game, but the Aggies struggled to move the ball the rest of the day against the Cowboys' defense. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love had his worst game of the season going 12-for-28 for just 53 yards. Wyoming's Logan Wilson had an easy pick as Love threw the ball right at him on what appeared to be a miscommunication with his intended receiver. In total, Utah State managed just 194 yards of total offense.
"It was a dogfight. It was a brawl out there, but the Aggies came out on top," Thompson told 1280 The Zone after the game. "We've been playing everybody and putting up numbers and putting up points, but now we know how we're going to react when adversity hits. When we get punched in the mouth we know how we're going to react. We're going to come out on top and punch them in the mouth a couple of times. We might take a couple of swings, but we're going to come out on top."
Wyoming switched up quarterbacks in the middle of the game as it replaced Vander Waal with freshman Sean Chambers. Chambers rushed for 100 yards and helped Wyoming claw its way back into the game. But Utah State didn't allow the Cowboys to gain a single yard on its final drive and forced the turnover on downs that practically ended the game.
Utah State improves to 6-1 and 3-0 in the Mountain West and becomes bowl eligible for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.17 comments on this story
"To be bowl eligible seven out of the past eight years, that's a big deal," said Wells. "But I'll tell you, that ain't the only goal we're looking for this year. We are climbing this mountain every step of the way. As with the analogy of the mountain, it's going to get a little bit harder. The air is going to get a little bit thinner, and, oh my goodness, it was thin here today. It's going to get a little bit higher and a little bit harder, and we've got to go find a way to win at home next week."