Defense grits Aggies to win, bowl eligibility

Utah State wide receiver Bruce Natson (9) stretches the ball across the goal line for a touchdown against UNLV in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Las Vegas. Utah State won 28-24. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

LAS VEGAS – With a dramatic 28-24 win over UNLV on Saturday, the Aggies improved to 6-4 overall this season and became bowl eligible for the third straight season — a first in school history.

“We’re not in a bowl and we haven’t gotten a bowl invite yet, so we’ll keep grinding away,” USU head coach Matt Wells said. “I think again, that it’s the mark of a consistent program, is that we want to get to November and we want to play for championships. …. Right now, we’ll keep the blinders on and we’re right in the championship hunt.”

On a night in which the offense struggled, it took a gritty effort from the defense for USU to escape with a win.

Senior cornerback Nevin Lawson came up big for the Aggies, sniffing out a fake field goal on one Rebel drive and intercepting a pass in the end zone to keep UNLV points off the board. USU then held firm at the goal line at the end of the game to preserve the win.

Offensively the Aggies struggled most of the night, especially in the first half when they had two touchdowns taken off the board due to penalties and failed to come away with points before the half with poor clock management.

“Obviously, that was running into the kicker,” Wells said. “You know, we had two touchdowns taken off the board before halftime. That’s undisciplined play that we can’t have and we haven’t had all year.”

Fortunately for the Aggies, Bruce “JoJo” Natson and company did just enough.

Natson scored two go-ahead touchdowns in the game, one in the first half for a 14-10 lead and then the game-winner in the fourth quarter. Natson finished with 71 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

“Outstanding performance by JoJo,” Wells continued. “I thought we were struggling on offense and to use him in some of that package, he gave us a weapon. He showed up and players make plays, and that sucker made plays.”

The Aggies moved to 6-4 overall and 5-1 in MWC play, with two games left to play. USU hosts Colorado State on Nov. 23 and Wyoming on Nov. 30.

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