Aggie defense shuts out Hawai’i as USU rolls to bowl eligibility

Utah State hosts Hawai'i in the final home game of the season on Saturday, November 18. With a win against Hawai'i, Utah State will be bowl eligible for the sixth time in the last seven years.

LOGAN – The Utah State football team became bowl eligible with its 38-0 shutout win over Hawai’i Saturday afternoon. It was an especially memorable win for many of the seniors, who played their last game at Merlin Olsen Field.

One of those seniors was running back LaJuan Hunt, who ran for 111 yards and a touchdown. Hunt said he wouldn’t have wanted it to play out any other way.

“It just feels good to leave Maverik Stadium with 100 yards and a touchdown and a win to make us bowl eligible,” he said.

Aggie quarterback Jordan Love was 9-of-14 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt freshman added another 48 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Hawai’i’ running back Diocemy Saint Juste ran for 126 yards on 28 carries, while quarterback Dru Brown threw for 128 yards. The Rainbow Warriors had 318 yards of total offense and entered the red zone multiple times, but the USU defense was still able to complete its first shutout since beating Colorado State 13-0 at home in 2013.

“Shutouts are hard to come by,” head coach Matt Wells said. “Colorado State was a long time ago.”

The win put USU at 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain West. Hawai’i is now at 3-8 overall and 1-7 in conference.

Sophomore kicker Dominik Eberle missed a 46-yard field goal on the team’s first drive, just his second miss of the season, but Gerold Bright made up for it on the next possession with a career-long 60-yard touchdown rush to go up 7-0. Love soon after led an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ron’Quavion Tarver.

With 5:32 still left in the first quarter the Aggies led 14-0 and had 170 yards of total offense, but it wasn’t just an offensive dominance. The Aggie defense hadn’t allowed a first down and had Hawai’i at -14 yards of total offense.

“We didn’t talk about it during the week or anything like that,” senior safety Dallin Leavitt said, “but when we went up 14-0 we started looking at each other like, ‘Let’s finish this right.’”

Hawai’i moved the ball better its next drive, traveling 52 yards downfield, but missing the 41-yard field goal attempt wide left. Kent Myers then replaced Love at quarterback for a series and connected with fellow senior Braelon Roberts for a 49-yard touchdown pass.

“I’m happy for that kid,” Wells said of Myers. “That kid has been a great teammate, he’s been a great leader, he’s been a great football player here at Utah State and for him to have that moment on senior day, I think its big time.”

Utah State’s defense saw the field a lot in the second quarter, but never allowed a point. Hawai’i started a 19-play drive that lasted just short of eight minutes, but it ended on a turnover on downs inside the red zone.

The Aggie defense only got one play of rest when the offense immediately gave the ball back on an interception. Hawai’i then moved within a yard of the goal line, but a Saint Juste fumble was recovered by Aggie linebacker Justus Te’i with seconds left until halftime.

“Gaje (Ferguson) made a great play at the running back, punched his arm in there and forced a fumble,” Leavitt said.

Hawai’i had possession of the football for more than 22 minutes in the first half, while USU had it for less than eight minutes.

The Aggies forced a three-and-out on its first defensive series in the second half, then scored on its first offensive play when Hunt carried the ball 48 yards for the score.

“I made my read, broke a tackle and then once I got in the open field I knew I was scoring,” Hunt said. “From there it was a touchdown.”

The next touchdown came when Love completed two consecutive passes for 38 yards then ran for 15 yards across the goal line, taking a 35-0 lead into the final quarter.

“Determination,” Hunt said, describing Love’s run into the endzone. “He spun off a tackle, lost a shoe and found a way to get in the endzone. I thought he was getting tackled at the five, and then he just barreled his way into the endzone.”

Utah State scored just once in the final quarter, on a 20-yard field goal by Eberle. Wells said every senior was able to play, which he said was the pan entering the game.

“Some of those guys got extended playing time at the end of the game,” he said. “That is something they’ll always remember. You can’t ever take those feelings away.”

USU will go on the road for its final game of the season next Saturday at Air Force.

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