The Old Wagon Wheel is staying in Logan.
Jordan Love, Ron’quavion Tarver and Darwin Thompson made sure of it.
Behind the power of Love’s career-high four passing touchdowns and an explosion by the Utah State offense, the Aggies dominated BYU to the tune of a 45-20 win in Provo Friday night. It was USU’s second-consecutive victory in the rivalry, and it marked their first win at LaVell Edwards Stadium since 2014.
“That’s a big win, that’s a big program win,” USU head coach Matt Wells said. “Our mantra all week-long was ‘One game, one trophy, and a lot of pride.’”
The Aggies (4-1 overall, 1-0 Mountain West) scored 40 points or more for the fourth-straight game for the first time in school history, spanning a total of 125 years-worth of organized football. It came both through the air and on the ground at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Thompson rushed for 109 yards on 17 carries, and the Aggies finished with 223 rushing yards as a team. Love was 18 of 28 for 165 yards, and Tarver tied his career-high with two TD receptions.
“It feels great,” Love said. “They said we haven’t won against BYU in back-to-back seasons in like forty years.”
It was 44 years, in fact. The last time Utah State beat BYU (3-3) in consecutive season was the 1973-74 seasons. The 25-point loss was BYU’s margin of defeat at home since 1968.
Utah State jumped out to a 21-0 lead. It all started with an incredibly athletic pick-six by USU outside linebacker Tipa Galeai on BYU’s second possession of the game. The edge-rusher made a leaping interception on a Tanner Mangum pass on fourth down at the USU 40-yard line. Galeai cut across the field with the ball and raced down the sideline to draw first blood for the Aggies.
USU’s defense forced a three-and-out, and the Aggies marched 71 yards in 11 plays to make it 14-0. Utah State faced a fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line, and elected to go for it. Love rolled right and threw a delayed pass to a wide open Gerold Bright on the far side of the field for a touchdown.
Once again, USU’s defense came up with a big play. David Woodward knocked the ball loose on the next BYU drive and Chase Christiansen recovered it near the sideline. It led to another touchdown by Love, this one to Tarver from six yards out to make it 21-0.
The only thing to really cost Utah State on the night was their struggle with penalties. USU was flagged a dozen times for a total of 125 yards; most of which came in the defensive backfield. A string of three penalties by the Aggie defensive backs led to BYU’s first touchdown drive late in the second quarter.
The Aggies ran away with it after halftime. Thompson ran the ball like a man on a mission for the Aggies on the opening drive of the third quarter. Thompson carried the rock five times for 54 yards on the drive, which resulted in a short passing TD from Love to Jalen Greene.
“Big players have to make big plays in games like this,” Wells said. “When you look at it across the board, I thought that both running backs made big plays.”
The very next drive saw the Aggies score on another Love to Tarver connection to make it 35-7 midway through the third quarter, and the rout was on.
The Aggies shined defensively. They allowed only 39 rushing yards to the Cougars – 25 of which came on BYU’s final drive against USU’s reserves with the game well in-hand.
Mangum threw for 270 yards for the Cougars, and Talon Shumway caught five passes for 110 yards in the loss.
The win meant a lot to many Utah State players, none more so than Aggie center Quin Ficklin. The Mesa, AZ native spent a total of three years at BYU before transferring to Utah State. Ficklin has not lost to BYU since he put on the Aggie blue.
“It was surreal,” Ficklin said when asked about how it felt to win at his former school. “It was awesome to come back down. I spent years of my life playing for (former BYU head coach) Bronco (Mendenhall) and (current BYU head coach) Salani (Kitake). It felt great to come down with my brothers from Logan and to win in that fashion, and to dominate, quite frankly.”
While the Aggies are certainly pleased to retain the bragging rights over the Cougars, it won’t be the most meaningful win of the season, as long as things go as planned for Coach Wells and his squad.
“It doesn’t have a lot to do with the Mountain West (Conference), and I wanted to make sure that was clear,” Wells said. “… It’s one game, and there’s a lot of pride for us at Utah State in a game like this. I’m really proud of our assistant coaches and our players, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”