USU drops 6-3 defensive battle at BYU

<strong>PROVO—</strong> With two of the top ranked defenses in the country, a defensive showdown was expected between Utah State and Brigham Young in a Friday night football program. That proved to be more than true as the Cougars made fewer mistakes than the Aggies in a low-scoring 6-3 win.

Coming in with their best start since 1978 and looking for their first win in Provo since that same year, the loss stung the Aggies who still believe they are the best team in the state.

“We believe that we are the best team (in the state),” USU linebacker Kyler Fackrell said. “We believe that we could and should have beat BYU tonight, but it just didn’t happen.”

Despite the loss, it was USU who struck first in the contest after stopping the Cougars on a fourth down conversion attempt on their first drive. After going three-and-out on their first possession, the Aggies got things going and got on the board with a 26-yard Josh Thompson field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

Following a blocked Justin Sorensen field goal by the Aggies, USU looked like it was going to be heading into the locker room with a 3-0 lead and the ball to start the second half. However, freshman QB Taysom Hill found Cody Hoffman – who finished with eight catches for 114 yards – for a big gain into USU territory.

Hill completed another pass to Hoffman down to the three yard line, and with only seconds left in the half found Cache Valley native JD Falslev for the go-ahead score. The ensuing PAT was missed, leaving BYU up 6-3 at the break.

“We played well on defense and made plays at times, gave up a drive at the end of the first half that ended up being ultimately a big factor in the football game,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said.

Penalties and turnovers have hurt Utah State in almost every win this season, but they have yet to cost the Aggies a game – Friday they finally did. For the third straight game USU turned the ball over on its first possession of the second half. Though that turnover didn’t cost the Aggies any points, it was yet another opportunity left on the field.

After receiving a short field later on in the third quarter, the Aggies appeared to be close to at least having a chance to tie the game with a field goal. Trickeration doomed USU though, as Cam Webb’s wide receiver pass to Matt Austin in double-coverage was picked off at the two-yard line.

“Of course they were a great defense, but it wasn’t too difficult, we just didn’t execute our game plan as planned,” Austin said. “I feel like, man, if we would have executed our plays and didn’t have a few dropped balls, the outcome of the game would have been on our side.”

The defenses continued to trade blows, but Utah State appeared to be in business again when Hill made his first mistake of the game and was intercepted by Fackrell near midfield. The Aggies drove the ball down to the BYU 15 yard line before the drive stalled.

That’s when the Aggies shot themselves in the foot again. Facing a third and 10, USU was whistled for an offsides penalty, moving the ball back to the 20. On the ensuing third and 15 play, Chuckie Keeton’s pass was incomplete which left Josh Thompson with a 37-yard field goal attempt to tie the game – the same distance he missed from on a game-winning attempt at Wisconsin.

Unlike the Wisconsin game, Thompson’s kick hooked wide-left instead of right, but the resulting missed field goal was the same and left USU trailing by three. The Aggies would not get another chance.

“It hurts, but again, you can’t point the finger. You put him in a position to kick the field goal and you’ve got to make it, but he didn’t make it, but I mean we can’t blame him,” Austin said. “Offense didn’t execute on our side of the ball, defense gave up a quick touchdown, so it goes everywhere … we’ve got to score, we shouldn’t have to put Josh in that situation, we’ve got to put the ball in the end zone.”

A punt by BYU pinned Utah State at its own six yard line with 5:06 remaining. Again, the Aggies were able to move the ball initially, but a penalty ultimately derailed the drive. Rather than electing to go for it on fourth and 11 from his own 30 yard line, Andersen punted the ball back to BYU with 2:06 remaining and three timeouts.

The Aggies had a chance to get the ball back as they stuffed BYU on first and second down, bringing up a decisive third and seven. The Cougars put the ball in the hands of a pair of freshmen as Hill pitched the ball to Jamaal Williams for an 11-yard gain and a first down. Just for good measure, BYU picked up another first down and then ran out the clock to end the game.

With the win, the Cougars also kept a pair of defensive streaks going as Friday was the 12th consecutive game they have held an opponent to less than 300 yards. By keeping the Aggies out of the end zone, they BYU defense also pushed its streak to 13 consecutive quarters without giving up a TD.

On the USU side, the is the fewest points the Aggies have scored since a 52-0 pounding at the hands of No. 19 Boise State in 2007. It was also the first time USU has been held without a touchdown since a 28-6 home loss to Idaho in 2010. The total offense for the Aggies (243) and rushing yards (41) were also season lows.

Utah State will remain on the road next week as the Aggies begin conference play at San Jose State. The Spartans are a surprising 4-1 on the season and have a bye this week. 

“We’ll let it burn in the back of our minds, but at the end of the day what we wanted at the beginning of the season was a WAC championship and to go to a bowl game and win a bowl game,” Fackrell said. “All of that is still in front of us, so we’ve got a lot to play for still.”

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