LOGAN — No coach will ever admit there is such a thing as an easy win, but it the case of Utah State, Saturday's 31-24 over UNLV could have been much easier if the Aggies hadn't gotten in their own way on multiple occasions.
The Aggies gave up 387 yards to the Rebels and were whistled for 12 penalties for 136 yards—one of which nullified a touchdown and an interception, but in end, the Aggies were able to overcome.
"We're real excited especially to win one that way. It's a shame we had to struggle so bad to win the game," first year coach Brent Guy said. "We're very fortunate to win that football game."
The win was a historic one in two ways: first, it was the first in the Guy era, and second, it was the 100th in the history of Romney Stadium.
"We're proud because it's our first win together as a team and we're also proud to win No. 100 in Romney history," Guy said. "All those guys in
the locker room can be proud of that."
The historical game hung in the balance until the last second of the game, however.
Utah State was forced to punt in the final minute and the 19-yard kick gave the Rebels tremendous field position in their efforts to tie.
After a completed pass to get the Rebels to the Utah State 29, the Aggies toughened up and knocked down three straight passes, including the last one by Antonio Taylor that came at the goal line on the final play of the game to preserve the victory.
"We practice that and we knew what we needed to do in that drill and that's exactly what they did," Guy said. "They batted the ball down exactly the way we coached them."
The win over the Rebels was the third straight and ninth in the last 10 games for the Aggies. For the Rebels (1-3) it was also their second consecutive loss to a Western Athletic Conference team.
"It was a devastating loss, very difficult to swallow," UNLV coach Mike Sanford said. "We didn't make the critical plays you have to make at critical times, that's the bottom line."
The Aggie defense was Swiss Cheese in the first three quarters, allowing UNLV 24 points on 310 yards total offense, but it the fourth quarter it allowed just 77 yards.
Utah State gave up-back-back touchdowns early in the third quarter and its six-point halftime lead was gone as the Rebels needed just 39 and 55 seconds in each drive to score.
Utah State's Kevin Robinson answered the touchdowns with two of his own. The first was a 19-yard run with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. Quarterback Leon Jackson dove in for the two-point conversion to tie the score at 24-24.
Robinson added the game-winning touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Jackson with 9:31 left in the game and the defense made it stand, despite several tries by the Rebels to tie the game.
"We won the fourth quarter tonight," Guy said. "We got the lead and didn't give it up. That's what you have to do to win."
After UNLV took the lead 53 seconds into the game, Utah State's Antonio Pennyman, who missed the Aggies' season opener at Utah due to suspension, returned the kickoff 92 yards for the touchdown.
The two teams traded field goals before Pennyman hauled in a 12-yard pass from Jackson to give the Aggies the 16-10 halftime lead.
After throwing for less than 100 yards in the season opener at Utah two weeks ago, Jackson completed 19 of 25 passes for 212 yards two touchdowns. The Aggies rushed for just 61 in recording 283 yards total offense.
Jackson's counterpart—UNLV's Shane Steichen—completed 25 of 43 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns in a losing cause.
Pennyman had a career-high 10 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, while five other Aggies had two catches each.
The Aggies (1-1) open up WAC play next week at Idaho.
Utah State 31
We practice that and we knew what we needed to do in that drill and that's exactly what they did. They batted the ball down exactly the way we coached them.
Aggies' first-year coach