LOGAN — The Utah State football team is in the midst of its best season since the '60s, with an 8-1 start and a No. 14 AP ranking. The Aggies aren't just beating teams either, they are outscoring opponents by an average of 28.4 points.
As far as what's responsible for Utah State's special season, there are plenty of players contributing. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love has been phenomenal with 2,185 yards and 19 passing touchdowns, and his numbers would be even more impressive if he actually played entire games.
The Aggie defense is tied for No. 2 in the nation with 23 forced turnovers. Savon Scarver has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Kicker Dominik Eberle is a leading candidate for the Lou Groza Award. And the offensive and defensive lines are dominating their opponents.
There's no lack of praise to go around.
But after last week's win over Hawaii, special attention needs to go to the two junior running backs that ran wild over the Rainbow Warriors: Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright.
"You’re dealing with two backs that are similar, fresh and split in time, 50-50. If you look at their carries, reps, averages, Gerold Bright and Darwin Thompson both are pretty equal," said coach Matt Wells at his weekly press conference. "That’s worked out in their favor because you’re splitting reps like that in a game, you’re dividing the amount of hits you’re taking by two and the same thing in practice. The cumulative effect is starting to work. They’re both very good backs."
Thompson's and Bright's stats put together are impressive. They've combined for 194 carries for 1,336 yards and 20 touchdowns. By comparison, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, the top running back in the FBS, has rushed for 1,363 yards and 11 touchdowns on 208 carries.
As similar as they've been this season, Bright and Thompson took different paths. Bright was a three-star recruit out of Pensacola, Florida, back in 2015. He was a dual-threat quarterback at Escambia High who made the switch to running back after arriving to Utah State. He took a redshirt season in 2015, rushed only 11 times in 2016, and finished 2017 with 249 yards and two rushing TDs.
Thompson, meanwhile, is a newcomer to Utah State after starting his collegiate career at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. Last season he earned NJCAA second-team All-America honors after rushing for 1,391 yards and eight touchdowns.
One thing that Thompson and Bright have in common? Explosive playmaking ability.
Bright had a 47-yard carry against Hawaii, a 51-yard rush against New Mexico State, and a 70-yard run against Air Force. Not to be outdone, Thompson had a 43-yard rush against Hawaii, a 56-yard run against a stingy Wyoming defense, a 65-yard carry against Air Force, and a 68-yard run against New Mexico State. In addition, Thompson had a 55-yard reception against New Mexico.
Talk about flipping the field in a hurry.
Thompson was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week after gaining 178 all-purpose yards and scoring three touchdowns at Hawaii. Bright wasn't too far behind, accounting for 134 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns himself against the Warriors.9 comments on this story
The performance of Bright and Thompson last week came at a key time for the Aggies as Love left the game in the second quarter due to an undisclosed injury. While backup Henry Colombi completed 9 of 11 attempts, the Aggies gained just 48 yards through the air after Love left the game. Granted, you don't need too many passing yards when your team is able to gain 426 yards on the ground.
As Utah State looks to continue its special season this week against San Jose State on Senior Night in Logan, Aggie fans should take a moment to appreciate this team. And while there's plenty of potential targets for admiration this season, the dynamic duo of Thompson and Bright is right up there.
The best news for Aggie faithful? Both should be back for more next season.