LOGAN – Missed opportunities doomed Utah State in a late-night loss to Air Force Saturday. Despite putting up 414 offensive yards to the Falcons’ 326, the Aggies lost 27-20.
“That probably sums up the whole game, just missed opportunities,” head coach Matt Wells said. “Whether it was some things in the red zone or when we allowed a kickoff return to get all the way back and put our defense on a short field. We got our eyes in the wrong spot a couple of times in the secondary.”
The Aggie defense was able to hold Air Force scoreless for much of the second half, but still trailed by four points midway through the fourth quarter. Then, in one play, USU’s chances of winning dropped drastically. Quarterback Kent Myers lost a fumble as he was sacked, giving Air Force the ball with only 13 yards to the endzone.
Falcon running back Jacobi Owens capitalized with a touchdown a few plays later, which gave the Aggies a two-score deficit and just 5:06 left to work with. The Aggies fought back, but weren’t able to catch up.
“That’s a hard loss,” Wells said. “I hurt for those kids in that locker room, that locker room is really devastated right now. It’s maybe the quietest I’ve ever heard on a loss.”
In addition to the loss, USU suffered game-ending injuries to starters on both sides of the ball. Dallin Leavitt and Devante Mays each left the field on crutches. It is unclear when either will be able to return.
“It’s hard for me, as a coach, to see any players go down with injuries,” Wells said. “I know that the dedication and the time those kids put in the offseason. It doesn’t matter who it is, my heart breaks for a kid when he gets injured.”
Myers completed 29-of-47 passes for 360 yards with an interception and a touchdown, but he and the running backs were only able to manage 42 yards on 32 rushes.
“I thought (Myers) competed,” Wells said. “I’m sure there are some things both he and I could do better, but I’m sure very, very proud of his effort and competitive spirit down the stretch.”
Air Force moved the ball downfield on its first drive of the game, but settled for a 28-yard field goal on after Aggie corner Jalen Davis swatted a pass intended for Jalen Robinette in the end zone. A pair of third-down conversions aided the 11-play, 46-yard scoring drive.
The Aggies soon faced a third-and-9 the following drive, but back-to-back deep pass completions from quarterback Kent Myers gave USU its first score. The first was a 42-yarder to Ron’Quavion Tarver. The second, a 43-yard touchdown, went to Rayshad Lewis.
“Coach (Javon) Bouknight just called my number and I just made a play,” Tarver said. “That’s what I was supposed to do.”
Utah State increased the lead to 10-3 early in the second quarter when Brock Warren hit a 23-yard field goal that capped off a 14-play, 66-yard drive, but the Falcons evened the score soon after. A kick return to the USU 36 helped set up a four-yard rushing touchdown five plays later.
Air Force struck one more time before going into the half after defensive back Brodie Hicks picked off Myers’ pass with 2:03 left on the clock. Quarterback Nate Romine took over and used a 47-yard pass to a wide open Ronald Cleveland to move his team down field before finishing the 88-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Reffitt.
The Aggies were able to make some important defensive stops to start the second half, including a fourth-and-1 tackle on the USU 21-yard line by Davis and Anthony Williams as the Falcons were threatening to score, but the offense was unable to capitalize with any points.
“That’s just the mindset we have as a defense here at Utah State,” linebacker Alex Huerta said. “The way that we came out (in the second half) is the way we come out all the time.”
The Aggies faced a fourth-and-17 on the Falcon 18 near the beginning of the fourth quarter. The team lined up for the field goal, but the play was a fake. Kicker Jake Thompson took off running to the endzone while quarterback DJ Nelson tossed him the ball. The catch and run came up short, but it pinned Air Force against its own endzone after the turnover on downs.
Air Force’s punt three plays later was returned in Falcon territory by Andrew Rodriguez. Tarver followed that up with an 18-yard reception, setting up a 23-yard Brock Warren field goal that cut the deficit to 17-13.
It was soon after that the devastating fumble occurred and the Falcons scored the subsequent touchdown. Then, Air Force picked up another field goal before the Aggie offense was able to score retaliate. Myers picked up his final touchdown of the night on a one-yard run with :31 seconds left after completing a 35-yard pass to Ron’Quavion Tarver.
The loss put the Aggies at 2-2 on the season and 0-1 in conference. The team will continue play next Saturday night at Boise State.