After its first 3-0 start since 1978, Utah State returned to the confines of Maverik Stadium to face its toughest test of the season in Boise State on Saturday.
The highly anticipated matchup didn’t go the way the Aggies hoped it would, as the Broncos secured a 27-3 victory to hand Utah State its first defeat of the Blake Anderson era.
Red zone struggles and inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball for the Aggies were too much to overcome in what was statistically solid showing for Utah State.
The Aggies posted 443 yards of total offense (eight more yards than the Broncos), but just couldn’t manage to put points on the board, keeping the pressure off Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier and the Bronco offense.
Bachmeier finished 22-39 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with another 44 yards on the ground.
Once again, Calvin Tyler Jr. was a bright spot for the Aggies, finishing with 126 yards on 20 carries.
Utah State now faces a short week to prepare for BYU, which will make the trip to Logan for a game next Friday.
“We’ve got to learn and we’ve got to get better,” Anderson said after the loss. “We’ve exceeded a lot of expectations early, and today the expectations were high and we didn’t meet (them). We’ve won games but have still not played our best football. I’d like to see a team that does. Hopefully we can get that done next Friday night.”
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
Inability to finish drives
The Aggies had no problem putting up yards and getting deep into Boise State territory, especially throughout the first half, but couldn’t finish the job. Utah State got inside the Boise State 35-yard line on four drives in the first half but scored zero points on all those possessions.
Boise State, on the other hand, thrived in the red zone, finishing 5 for 5 for the game while Utah State finished 1 for 4. The Aggies actually outgained the Broncos in total yardage (443 to 435), but the Broncos put the points on the board.
Anderson said that the difference between the two teams in the red zone was what won Boise State the game.
“We’ve got to get points. Yards don’t matter...we were 1 for 4 in the red zone and they were 5 for 5 and that’s the game right there,” Anderson said. “We have to get points.”
Quarterbacks struggle to find rhythm
Both Logan Bonner and Andrew Peasley played multiple series at the quarterback spot. While each had bright moments, both struggled to sustain any sort of rhythm throughout the game.
Bonner — who started — finished 11 for 25 for 173 yards and two interceptions, while Peasley went 2 for 6 for 35 yards but led the Aggies to their only scoring possession of the game.
At the beginning of the game, it didn’t look like Peasley would play at all, but after Bonner’s two early interceptions, the coaching staff made the change seeking for momentum, but it wasn’t found as the two signal-callers flip flopped every couple series from that point on.
Anderson said the struggles on offense came down to execution and self-inflicted issues on all levels of the offense and not just at the quarterback position.
“It seemed like we had every little, off-schedule type issue, false starts, busts up front, even a couple drops, so we just couldn’t maintain rhythm when we did get any kind of a rhythm at all,” Anderson said.
Defense does enough
On paper it won’t look like the Utah State defense had an immaculate performance, but the unit certainly performed well enough for the Aggies to potentially secure the victory.
The defense forced five Boise State punts, forced a turnover and allowed a 40% success rate on third downs, all good enough numbers for Utah State to have a chance at a win.
The Aggies will undoubtedly be left to wonder how the game would’ve gone if the offense could’ve better supplemented the defense’s performance.
“You’ve got to be proud of the defense and how they hung in there and kept us in it,” Anderson said. “They gave us a chance… They prepared well and I think they had a chip on their shoulder given how last week went. They had a lot to prove and played hard.”