The 2021 battle for the Old Wagon Wheel concluded rather disappointingly for Blake Anderson and the Aggies Friday night.
With a final tally of 34-20, BYU retained possession of the wheel once more with a win in front of an energized sellout crowd at Maverik Stadium. The loss was the second in a row for a Utah State squad that enjoyed a pleasant 3-0 start to the season.
The loss came as a disappointment to Aggie supporters who hoped their rejuvenated side could potentially pull off the upset.
BYU’s Tyler Allgeier was the star of the evening, gashing the Aggies defense for 230 total yards and three touchdowns. The Cougars outgained Utah State 466 to 336 on the offensive side of the ball.
Both teams had their starting quarterbacks knocked out of the game at one point, with BYU losing Baylor Romney for the whole second half and Utah State losing Logan Bonner late in the fourth quarter. Bonner went 21-for-41 for 276 yards, two touchdowns and an interception before bowing out.
Deven Thompkins performed well in his last career matchup against BYU, finishing with nine catches for 125 yards.
Anderson said after the game that he wanted fans to know that the BYU program will come to know the Aggies very well when it meets them again in the future.
“We will make this (rivalry) a battle every stinkin’ year and this game is one we won’t forget, but I promise you we will battle,” Anderson said.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
Outmatched in the trenches
The Aggies struggled to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball throughout the evening, allowing 211 rushing yards on 35 rushes while only gaining 22 yards on 35 rushes of its own. Though Utah State’s passing game was able to pick up slack for the struggles on the ground, the inability to contain Allgeier and the BYU rushing attack seemed to be the greatest difference maker when it was all said and done.
Anderson said BYU had the size and physicality advantage, but also added that his team just simply struggled to execute at the line of scrimmage.
“It won the game for them,” Anderson said of the BYU’s advantage up front. “They controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part. At times we were able to use our quickness and speed to create some negative plays, but ultimately their ability to run the ball downhill and create the big plays that they did won the game for them.”
Can’t capitalize after finally getting stops
After struggling to keep the Cougars from scoring on each possession in the first half, Utah State’s defense showed up in the third quarter and took advantage of facing freshman quarterback Jacob Conover, who struggled coming on in relief for the injured Romney. The Aggies forced three straight BYU three-and-outs to start the period after zero BYU punts in the first half.
The offense — which played admirably in the opening half — couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity to make up ground with punts of its own and even a failed fourth down conversion on the BYU 33-yard line. Utah State’s defense ultimately held BYU to zero third quarter points, but the Aggies failed to post any points of their own.
Anderson said the offense was too inconsistent play to play in the quarter, and Thompkins said that that inconsistency was simply due to poor execution from him and his teammates.
“It was just execution,” Thompkins said. “Those little things like fumbles coming off of first downs and other things like that. As long as we can stop making those mental errors and hurting ourselves, I think we can play with anybody in the country.”
Logan Bonner hurt late in game
With just over eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Bonner appeared to suffer a knee injury and had to be helped off the field by the training staff. Anderson said he won’t have an official word on the full extent of his starting quarterback’s injury until Bonner has an MRI, but he did say that the team trainers told him everything felt OK structurally when they examined the knee.
Andrew Peasley — who lost the starting quarterback battle to Bonner earlier in the season — came on in relief for Bonner, finishing 5-for-7 for 38 yards and an interception in Utah State’s final two offensive drives.
The Aggies now head into a bye week, which Anderson said he was thankful for, hoping the extra week off may give Bonner a chance to heal up in time for his team’s Oct. 16 showdown with UNLV if his MRI does in fact come back clean.
“He was pretty sore, but he’s a pretty tough guy,” Anderson said. “I like to think that it’s something we can get him past and get him for the rest of the upcoming stretch of games.”