BOISE – Utah State’s 10 game win streak was snapped Saturday night, and with it, hopes of playing for a Mountain West Conference championship. Instead the team representing the Mountain Division next week against Fresno State will be Boise State, which beat the Aggies 33-24 in Albertson’s Stadium.
“The end goal is always the Mountain West championship game,” linebacker Chase Christiansen said. “Not being in that, it stings a lot.”
Running back Gerold Bright said he felt his team played the best they could, but that it wasn’t enough. The Aggies haven’t played in the championship game since 2012, when the team lost to Fresno State.
“It hurts,” Bright said. “Because you fall short of a goal you were so close to touching.”
Trailing 26-17 with less than four minutes remaining in the game, Utah State needed two quick scores. It got the first on an 83-yard pass to Bright, but Boise State running back Alexander Mattison, who rushed 37 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, responded with a final outcome-sealing score with seconds remaining.
“It was a hard-fought game,” head coach Matt Wells said. “I’m proud of my guys. You get down two scores there halfway through the fourth quarter and you continue to battle and find a way to get back in it.”
Sophomore Aggie quarterback Jordan Love threw for 363 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Boise State senior Brett Rypien threw for 310 yards and a touchdown.
It was Utah State that got on the scoreboard first. Love led the fast-paced Aggie offense on a nine-play, 75-yard opening drive, entering the endzone with a nine-yard completion to Jalen Greene, but Boise State battled back with the game’s next 17 points.
Both first half Bronco touchdowns came after the offense started with a short field. The first after Love threw an interception and the second when an Aggie fake punt on fourth-and-1 failed. Both drives ended with Mattison touchdown runs inside the 2-yard line. Boise’s other first-half score came on a 24-yard Haden Hoggarth field goal following a 51-yard Rypien pass to Sean Modster.
“You can’t spot anybody short fields,” Wells said. “That’s on me, the fake punt that we didn’t execute.”
Love responded to the 17-unanswered points with a drive that closely resembled his first of the game. USU cut the deficit to 17-14 with another nine-play, 75-yard drive, this time finishing with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tarver.
Boise State increased its lead to 20-14 midway through the third quarter when a 44-yard completion to AJ Richardson set up a 27-yard field goal. Utah State attempted its own field goal on its next drive, but Dominik Eberle’s 50-yard attempt came up short. Eberle’s 45-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, however, cut the Bronco lead to 20-17.
USU fell behind by two scores after Boise State’s next drive, which was aided by a targeting call against Tipa Galeai, who was ejected from the game.
Utah State finished the regular season 10-2 and will await a bowl bid.
“We’ve had a good year,” Wells said. “A very good year. We’ve got another one left. We’ve got a chance to win 11, which would tie a school record.”