The Utah State football team made history Thursday night as the Aggies won their second consecutive bowl game 21-14 over No. 24 Northern Illinois in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. It was the first time in program history that the Aggies won two consecutive bowl games.
It took awhile for the offense and rushing attack to get going, but once it started, it couldn't be stopped. Utah State running back Joey DeMartino finished the game with 143 yards rushing and a touchdown. As a team, the Aggies finished with 168 yards on the ground.
In a hard-fought game between both sides, most of the big plays came mostly from the defense side of the field. The Aggies defense dominated, wrecking havoc on the Huskies as quarterback and Heisman trophy finalist Jordan Lynch was never able to settle into a rhythm.
Here are the grades for the Aggies after their upset victory over the Huskies.
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The Aggie offense got off to a slow start as it punted and missed a field goal on its first two drives. Utah State managed two field goals before half, but could never get into the end zone.
The second half was a different story as the Aggies quickly scored on their first possession, set up by an interception by the defense on the first play of the half. Starting quarterback Darell Garretson threw a 5-yard touchdown to Brandon Swindall and the Aggies never looked back.
DeMartino had a big game for the Aggies. The senior running back gained 143 yards on the ground to go along with his game-clinching touchdown. DeMartino was consistent all night as the running back finished with an average of more than six yards per carry.
The only negatives on the night were the two turnovers on offense. Garretson threw two interceptions on the night, including one in the end zone.
The Aggies defense came into the game as one of the toughest in the nation, allowing just 17.3 points per game, which was seventh best in the nation. The defense lived up to the hype as they allowed just 14 points to a Husky offense that was averaging close to 42 points per game.
The Aggie defense allowed 315 yards of total offense; however, it stood tall when it counted most, stopping the Huskies on fourth down at the USU 25 near the end of the first half. The Aggies also forced two turnovers as junior safety Brian Suite recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass. The play of Suite and many other players helped Utah State win the field position battle.
The Aggies missed their first field goal of the night, but responded by playing outstanding football the rest of the game. Utah State connected on its next two field goals, both by Nick Diaz, and landed multiple punts inside the 20-yard line.
Other than giving up a fake punt that resulted in a first down, the special teams unit for the Aggies put pressure on the Huskies that resulted in missed field goals and bad punts. The special teams unit also recovered an onside kick with two minutes remaining that preserved the win.
The Aggies offense was slowed in the first half due to some conservative play-calling. However, give credit to the coaching staff as they regrouped during halftime. The Aggies were a completely different team after that as they pounded the ball, controlled the clock and worn down the Husky defense.
The Utah State defense came into the game having faced similar types of rushing quarterbacks and it showed. The Aggies were prepared on defense and never let Northern Illinois get comfortable.
Utah State knew it was playing in front of a nationally televised audience and made the most of its opportunities. Not only did the Aggies upset a nationally ranked opponent, but they made program history as they won their second consecutive bowl game.