When it boils right down to it, Saturday ended up being a positive for the Utah State Aggies, as they got a comeback win over the UNLV Rebels. In their quest for bowl eligibility (they now need to win just two of their last six games to get there), that’s ultimately all that matters.
That being said, Saturday was not pretty. Sure, UNLV’s 0-6 record probably influences that sentiment perhaps unfairly, even as the Rebels did some good things, but there’s a reason UNLV has lost 12 straight games: It’s not good, and the Aggies had to use a late drive to get the victory.
Here’s how Utah State graded in moving to 4-2 on the season.
As has been the case a few times this year, the Aggies did a good enough job on Saturday of racking up yards, but once again they too often struggled to turn that into actual points.
In the first half, quarterback Logan Bonner threw for a whopping 223 yards as Utah State was finding all sorts of holes in the Rebel secondary, but the Aggie run game struggled mightily to get anything going whatsoever, and the team only had one offensive touchdown at intermission (0 for 2 in the red zone).
In the second half, the Utah State ground game got going better but the passing game virtually disappeared. The Aggies scored a touchdown early in the third quarter but then did nothing to speak of until late in the fourth quarter, save for a few field goal tries that were unsuccessful. This came against a UNLV defense that is one of the worst in the entire country.
All of that being said, the Utah State offense ultimately showed up when it needed to. Down 24-21 with 2:46 to play, the Aggies went on a 9 play, 60-yard drive, and Elelyon Noa punched it into the end zone from 11 yards out with 35 seconds left to all but give Utah State the win.
Utah State’s defense isn’t very good, and that showed on Saturday. UNLV running back Charles Williams is a good player, but he absolutely gashed the Aggies en route to rushing for 221 net yards on 27 carries (8.2 average) with three touchdowns.
At halftime, a Rebel team that came in averaging 18.6 points per game already had 17.
Things did get better in the second half. After Williams’ third touchdown of the night early in the third quarter, Utah State didn’t allow anymore points the rest of the way as the game turned rather ugly.
Shaq Bond did come away with two interceptions, although one was in the closing seconds as UNLV was desperately, and unsuccessfully, trying to get something going with backup quarterback Justin Rogers in the game (Cameron Friel had gotten hurt).
All told, not a very good performance from the Aggies, but they did just enough against a bad offense.
The ultimate mixed bag.
Return ace Savon Scarver tied the NCAA record with his seventh career kickoff return for a touchdown early in the first quarter, and the Aggies were on their way to a great grade in this department.
The rest of the night was not good on special teams.
Conner Coles entered Saturday having made 8 of 10 field goal tries this season, including a career high 52-yarder against BYU. On Saturday, though, he missed two (including another try from 52 yards) and had a third attempt blocked.
The second miss and the blocked attempt came in the fourth quarter as Utah State trailed by three, making an Aggie offense that wasn’t great have to come up with a game-winning drive at the end.
As it turned out, UNLV scored no points in response to the field goal woes, but still, not great.