LOGAN – The outcome was still in question as Utah State was clinged to its nine point lead Friday night on Merlin Olsen Field. The Aggie offense had been outgained by the Cougars both on the ground and through the air. BYU had the ball, and was aiming for a comeback win.
Leaning on a rushing attack from Ula Tolutau and Squally Canada, the Cougar offense was averaging more than five yards per carry, but it was now-or-never with just more than three minutes left in the game.
That’s when Jalen Davis came through. The senior Aggie corner sealed the game shut with a 50-yard pick-six, his third pick of the game, and second touchdown-scoring interception of the night.
In all, the Utah State defense forced seven turnovers on its way to reclaiming the Old Wagon Wheel. The 40-26 victory over Brigham Young was USU’s first win over its rival since 2014.
“Great energy, enthusiastic crowd,” head coach Matt Wells said. “I thought our student section was off the chain. They were loud, they were into it. I thought our sideline was into it.”
Utah State struck first, but found itself trailing 21-7 just 90 seconds into the second quarter. The Aggies responded well to the adversity, largely thanks to a spark by Davis, whose first pick-six was the beginning of 26 unanswered points for the Aggies.
Wells said his team did “a lot of growing up” Friday night.
“That is a satisfying thing as a coach to see them overcome that,” he said.
BYU was already without Tanner Mangum – the team’s normal starter at quarterback – and saw backup Beau Hoge go down as well. Three different quarterbacks went under center for the Cougars, but Hoge led all with five completions for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’ve been on the other end of a quarterback injury in this series,” Wells said. “Injuries are rough.”
Utah State started the game fast. Tight end Dax Raymond caught a 32-yard touchdown pass after the offense converted two third downs on the nine-play, 75-yard opening drive. Things were still looking good for USU when the defense forced a three-and-out on BYU’s first possession, but BYU’s Micah Hanneman responded with an interception for a touchdown off USU quarterback Kent Myers.
Myers finished the game 16-of-27 passing for 176 yards and a two touchdowns, with 13 carries for 61 yards and a rushing touchdown.
“Adversity happens,” he said. “You never know when it’ll happen. It happened early but we battled back.”
Hoge’s two touchdowns came next, early in the second quarter. The first on a 26-yard pass, and the next on a 40-yarder.
It wasn’t long after that USU’s comeback started.
Myers came back in and moved the ball down to the 21, but Dominik Eberle’s field goal attempt was blocked. Davis made up for it a few plays after with his first interception. Hoge’s pass bounced off of Chase Christiansen’s back and into Davis’ hands, who returned it 30 yards for six points.
Davis said Christiansen had no idea the ball had even hit him.
“I said thank you so much for being in a great position,” Davis joked, “and just having the ball fall in my lap.”
The game went scoreless for the next 10 minutes, but Ron’Quavion Tarver came through, catching a 36-yard Myers pass in the endzone with just 1:11 left in the half. It appeared the teams would be tied at 21 at the break, but Aggie safety Dallin Leavitt picked off Koy Detmer Jr. with 33 seconds on the clock, giving Eberle a 32-yard field goal.
Coming out of the half leading 24-21, the Aggie defense got another takeaway, and another Eberle field goal. USU failed to capitalize on its fifth turnover, but took advantage of its sixth: a 19-yard keeper by Myers on the first play of the fourth quarter. USU led 33-21 after the 2-point conversion failed.
BYU responded with a six-play, 41-yard drive and its first points of the second half. Rhett Almond’s 37-yard field goal cut the Aggie lead to nine, which held until Davis’ touchdown in the final minutes.
The win put USU a 3-2 on the season. Wells became the first USU head coach to beat BYU twice since Bruce Snyder, who coached from 1976 to 1982. USU returns to conference play next Saturday with a home game against Colorado State.