Championship game berth in question as Aggies drop home finale in Logan

LOGAN—Utah State entered Saturday night’s game at the top of the conference standings while Wyoming was looking for just its second conference win, but it was the Cowboys who left town with the 44-17 victory, bowl eligible and the Bridger Rifle rivalry trophy.

Behind 604 yards of total offense, Wyoming improved to 6-5 overall and 2-5 in conference. Utah State fell to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in conference. Aggie head coach Blake Anderson said he was worried all week about matching up with Wyoming’s style of play and size, and it proved to be a major issue.

We made way too many mistakes to stay in the game,” he said. “And honestly, just got shoved around.”

The loss put the Aggies in a much more unfavorable position in the conference race. Utah State no longer controls its own destiny in the Mountain West race. If USU is to reach the championship game, it will be because San Diego State beats Boise State at home and USU wins in Albuquerque next Saturday.

Anderson said that looking at the game will hurt, and that he and his team will need to get over it fast.

“We’ve got to recoup, refresh these guys on a short week, find a way to win number nine and all become big San Diego State fans,” Anderson said. “That’s all we can do.”

Utah State entered the game averaging more than 303 passing yards per game, but Aggie quarterback Logan Bonner’s 19 completed passes went for just 181 yards. Running back Calvin Tyler Jr. carried the ball 18 times for 109 yards.

“We knew they were a top five passing defense in the country,” wide receiver Brandon Bowling said. “We knew that was going to be a really big challenge for us.”

Wyoming quarterback Levi Williams completed 12 of 15 passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but it was the running attack that really hurt USU. Cowboy running backs Titus Swen and Xazavian Valladay combined for more than 300 yards rushing. Swen had 178 yards and two touchdowns while Valladay added another 148 yards. All but 17 of those yards came after the first quarter.

“We didn’t tackle well as the game wore on,” Anderson said. “I thought physically, their size, physical nature and how they run the ball, it just got harder and harder for us to defend.”

The teams traded touchdowns in the opening quarter. Wyoming went first, scoring midway through the opening quarter on a 40-yard Williams pass to Isaiah Neyor. Utah State responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 10-yard Bowling touchdown catch.

The 7-7 tie didn’t last long. Wyoming’s Cameron Stone returned the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, but it only took the Aggies three plays to even the score again. Elelyon Noa carried the ball twice for 24 yards, then Bonner went deep to Deven Thompkins for a 41-yard touchdown.

USU forced a punt the following possession, but gave the ball back on a lost fumble early in the second quarter. The Wyoming offense quickly moved into the redzone, but a Shaq Bond interception on the 2-yard line stopped the drive before any points were scored. The interception put an end to the scoring for another half-quarter, but Wyoming got it going again, retaking the lead with 6:50 left in the half on an eight-play, 55-yard drive and touchdown. After forcing USU to a three-and-out, Wyoming went another 72 yards and hit a 28-yard field goal to take a 24-14 lead.

With less than two minutes left in the half Bonner orchestrated an eight-play, 45-yard drive to get close enough for Conner Coles to get a 36-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 24-17 at the half.

“We felt like we were really fortunate to be in the situation we were at halftime,” Anderson said. “I thought it could’ve been worse. We weren’t playing very well and they were.”

USU attempted a field goal on its opening drive of the half, but the snap went over the holder’s head, giving Wyoming the ball near midfield. The Cowboys took a two-touchdown lead on a 43-yard rush two plays later. USU went three-and-out on its next drive, and the Cowboys piled on more points, extending the lead to 34-17 on a 24-yard field goal. The exclamation point was dotted with 1:29 left in the third quarter after USU’s punt stuck the Wyoming offense on the 1-yard line, but the Cowboys broke a 99-yard touchdown soon after.

Wyoming scored once more on a 34-yard field goal with 6:13 left in the game—the only points scored by either team in the fourth quarter.

“Guys are upset,” Bowling said of the team’s morale following the game. “It is senior night, you know. I’m a senior and I wanted to go out with a win in probably our last game in Maverik Stadium. Guys are upset, but we’ve got to go out next week and execute.“

USU will play at New Mexico in the final game of the regular season Friday at 11 a.m.

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