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Wait pays off for Fiefia, Aggies

USU's David Fiefia dives for the goal line, coming up just short. But the Aggies defeated La.-Monroe 28-10 in Logan.
USU's David Fiefia dives for the goal line, coming up just short. But the Aggies defeated La.-Monroe 28-10 in Logan.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

LOGAN — Utah State tailback David Fiefia showed signs of what kind of runner he could be in the final game of the 2001 season when he rushed for 116 yards against Fresno State.

It took the senior 14 games to surpass that feat, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Aggies.

Fiefia, 5-foot-8, 200 pounds, rushed for 142 yard on 25 carries Saturday in leading the Aggies to the 28-10 victory over La.-Monroe (0-5) — not only their first win of the season but their first Sun Belt Conference victory as well.

"David has been a real trooper for us. He's been nicked up and he's played behind some good players and he's waited his turn," Utah State coach Mick Dennehy said. "He's always been ready to play. It's nice to see the dedication and hard work (pay off)."

Fiefia, who has been plagued with injuries in his first three seasons, surpassed 100 yards with just over three minutes left in the second quarter. He rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown in the second half and finished 45 yards shy of his sophomore season rushing total of 187 yards.

"With Chris Cooley out they (the coaches) pretty much told us in our meeting that the younger guys have to step up," Fiefia said. "I took that as a challenge for myself to step it up and carry the team on my shoulders."

In Utah State's first scoring drive, Fiefia carried the ball nine times for 35 yards and capped the Aggies' 16-play, 89-yard drive with a 1-yard run midway through the first quarter.

In all, he carried the ball 16 times for 116 yards in the first half.

That was especially gratifying for Fiefia after rushing for just 29 yards on 12 carries last year.

"I think our line did a great job today," Fiefia said. "The holes were there so I just took what they gave me and did my best."

In Utah State's first three games against Utah, Nebraska and Arizona State, Fiefia was on the verge of a breakout game with 54, 60 and 77 yards, respectively.

The Aggie offense seemed to feed off Fiefia in the first half. Quarterback Travis Cox was 12-of-14 passing 111 yards in the first half and he also ran for a 5-yard touchdown and completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jason Stephens for the Aggies' other two scores of the first half.

"Being able to run the ball will help us later on down the road," Dennehy said.

Cox was showing the same type of confidence Saturday as he did three weeks ago at Nebraska when he completed 13-of-15 passes in the first quarter alone. Saturday, he connected with four different receivers in the half with six balls going to Chris Stallworth for 58 yards. Cox completed only three passes for 10 yards in the second half.

The Indians had 214 yards total offense in the first half, but the Aggie defense took over in the second half holding ULM to just 43 yards total offense.

The Aggies (1-3) didn't record a sack in their first three games, but they had four in the 18-point win. Ronald Tupea had three and Nate Putnam, Justin Jackson and John Chick, in his first game this year, had one each.

"Our play was a definite improvement. We have a number of knock downs and a couple of sacks. That really takes the wind out of the offense," Putnam said. "The past few weeks Nebraska and Arizona State did it to us, and it was nice to have the momentum swing in our direction tonight."

The Aggies held a team to 10 points or fewer for the first time in 37 games since beating North Texas 34-7 in 1999.

In playing its best game of the year, the defense held ULM quarterback Steven Jyles to just 212 yards passing. In their meeting last year, Jyles threw for 480 yards in leading the Indians to a three-point double overtime victory. Also, the Aggie defense held Sun Belt Conference leader Kevin Payne to just 41 yards. He averaged 92 heading into the game.

"Today we actually has something to play for," Tupea said. "The defense came out this week and practice harder and we knew we had something to look forward to."

Terrance Washington bagged his third interception of the year and Mark Estelle recorded his first

The Aggies had the ball five times in the first half and scored on three of them. They fumbled and punted on the other two.

In the second half, Tupea pounced on a ULM fumble on the Indians' 2-yard line and Fiefia scored one play later increasing Utah State's lead to 28-10.


E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com