The 7-2 Utah State Aggies came into Saturday night’s matchup with a 5-5 San Jose State team as 3.5 point underdogs.
Head coach Blake Anderson said his guys felt a little disrespected, and it certainly showed, as the Aggies covered that spread and then a lot more.
By a final score of 48-17, Utah State picked up its eighth win of the season at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, proving that it is a legit contender for this year’s Mountain West conference championship.
The win also moved the Aggies to 5-0 on the road for the first time since 1973.
In typical 2021 Aggie football fashion, Utah State fell behind 14-0 early in the second quarter, but went on to outscore the Spartans 48-3 over the remainder of the game to pick up the blowout victory.
For the eighth time this season and the sixth game in a row, Deven Thompkins had at least 100 receiving yards, finishing with five catches for 127 yards.
Quarterback Logan Bonner threw for 263 yards and four touchdowns against one interception, which was returned for the game’s first touchdown.
The Aggie defense limited San Jose State to just 150 total yards and forced two turnovers, helping Utah State put together what was its most complete game of the season.
Here are three takeaways from the Utah State victory.
Mountain division title in sight
Before the season started, perhaps no one expected the Aggies to be in the driver’s seat of the Mountain division through the first six conference games, but that’s exactly the position they are in.
The perception around Saturday night’s matchup with the Spartans was that it would be their biggest obstacle in winning the division title, but the Aggies took care of business to improve to 5-1 in conference play.
With games against Wyoming and New Mexico (combined 2-10 conference record) left on the schedule, Utah State has a clear path to an appearance in the Mountain West Conference championship game.
Not bad for what was expected to be a rebuilding year for Anderson and his squad.
Anderson said that having the division title in sight has given his players more and more motivation to perform better than they did the previous game.
“We’ve gotten better and better all year,” Anderson said. “Obviously they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“They know what we’re playing for, and I think that has energized these guys to really just empty the tank, and they’re doing that.”
Defense plays best game of the year
All season long, Utah State’s defense has been a “bend but don’t break” kind of unit, but on Saturday night, the Aggies put together a “don’t bend and don’t break” kind of performance.
The unit only allowed one touchdown all night long, which came after San Jose State forced a fumble on a Bonner sack deep in Utah State territory.
One could even make the case that if the offense commits zero turnovers, the Aggies would’ve only allowed three points all night.
The defense allowed only 12 rushing yards for the game, a great improvement for a unit that had been gashed on the ground by multiple opposing rushing attacks in past games.
The strong play in the trenches put the Spartans in some uncomfortable situations on third down, which kept them from moving the sticks all night long (1-for-12 on third down conversions).
Anderson said that the outing was the best his defense has had all season.
“From beginning to end, there were really no breakdowns,” Anderson said. “We created turnovers, created pressure and really stalled their run game. ...They played a lights-out game all night.”
Logan Bonner continues to play well
Early in the game, Bonner threw a pass into double-coverage that ended up being picked off and returned for a touchdown.
Coming off of back-to-back strong games, the shaky start had raised questions about whether or not the junior signal caller would be able to maintain the momentum he had built against Hawaii and New Mexico State.
But Bonner put the interception behind him and put together yet another strong game. In fact, he became the first player in school history to have four or more touchdown passes in three straight games.
“One of the most important parts of playing this position is you’ve got to have a short memory,” Bonner said when asked how he bounced back from the early pick.
“(Take it) one play at a time and the next play could be something big. Credit to the defense. I put them in a bad position and they played lights-out, so all the credit goes to them.”
Anderson attributed Bonner’s recent success to the fact that the quarterback is really starting to fully grasp an offensive system that had been adjusted significantly from the way it was run at Arkansas State.
Like he has all year, Bonner also showed considerable toughness, bouncing back up to his feet after taking multiple hard shots from a staunch San Jose State defensive front.