Too many mistakes.

If Utah State’s loss to Fresno State on Friday night in Logan was the result of anything, it was miscues by the Aggies.

Simply too many mistakes made by an increasingly promising USU team against a good opponent.

Utah State, now 3-4 this season, lost to Fresno State 37-32, in what can be best described as a well-competed game that saw five lead changes, including three in the fourth quarter.

Utah State out-gained the Bulldogs (568 yards to 459), while Fresno State was the more effective team, converting 11 of 18 third downs compared to a 3 for 12 mark by USU.

The Aggies were more explosive, averaging more yards per completion (15.8 yards to 13.5) and run (seven yards to 5.8), but the Bulldogs were cleaner with fewer penalties (five compared to eight by USU) and fewer turnovers (zero for FSU, two for USU).

Trailing by six points point with just nine minutes remaining, Utah State reeled off a five-play, 85 yard scoring drive to take the lead.

Trailing by one point with just under five minutes remaining, Fresno State answered by reeling off a five-play, 72 yard scoring drive to take the lead.

If not for a late mistake — an interception thrown by Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas — the Aggies were primed to reel off another scoring drive late, having driven 32 yards into Fresno State territory with 1:24 remaining.

After the game, Utah State head coach Blake Anderson bemoaned that late interception, blaming it not on his quarterback, but on what he considered a missed call.

“I thought (Fresno State nickel back Morice Norris Jr.) got away with a (pass interference), hands down,” Anderson said. “Should have been flagged, but that’s the way the game goes. You gotta make the play when you need to make the play.”

It wasn’t just that one mistake that cost the Aggies the game, though. It was many mistakes throughout the course of the contest.

There was another interception thrown by Legas, though blame for that pick falls more on miscommunication between receivers Terrell Vaughn and Jalen Royals.

That pick ended a promising Aggie drive at the Fresno State 28-yard line.

Additionally, there were multiple game-changing penalties, be it a hands-to-the face infraction, an unsportsmanlike penalty, a hitting a defenseless player violation and a roughing the passer (and near targeting) miscue.

There was an onside kick try following a field goal early in the third quarter — an attempt to catch Fresno State off guard — that failed, gifting the Bulldogs’ excellent field position, which they turned into a touchdown.

There was a fourth down try — on 4th and 6 — at Fresno State’s 34-yard line that ended with a wildly inaccurate incompletion.

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Throughout the game, even as they were highly competitive with one of the better teams in the Mountain West Conference, the Aggies were their own worst enemies.

It was, more than any game this season, a highly disappointing and somehow also encouraging setback for Utah State.

“Clearly disappointed with the outcome, but not disappointed in the guys at all,” Anderson said. “That’s the most complete game we’ve played all year against a really, really good football team. We had opportunities to win it and didn’t. They made the plays they needed to. We missed some opportunities, some really, really good opportunities to convert, some good opportunities to get off the field defensively.

“Bottom line is they made plays they had to to win and we just couldn’t deny it. Proud of the fact that we played four really hard quarters in all three phases. At times, we showed what we’re capable of and hope we can find it more consistently moving forward. It’s a tough loss because we had good opportunities and we just couldn’t execute when we needed to to finish it.”

The bad is clear. Now 3-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play, the Aggies’ conference championship hopes are on life support.

Four teams remain unbeaten in conference play — Air Force, Wyoming, Boise State and UNLV — and Fresno State now stands 2-1 and holds the head-to-head edge over the Aggies.

A run to the conference title game is all but out of the cards for Utah State, barring chaos.

Bowl eligibility remains possible for the Aggies — highly possible with games against bad teams in Nevada and New Mexico — but a couple more poor performances and that could change. Quickly.

More than that, though, USU proved susceptible to the moment Friday.

Anderson conceded that many of the penalties may have been a result of his team getting caught up in the importance of the game. A win over Fresno State would have altered the trajectory of the season and the Aggies knew it.

“Guys knew how big this game was and what it meant, what kind of test it was, and we got out of character,” Anderson said.

There was good to be gleaned from Utah State’s showing too, though.

The Aggies finally cast off their first quarter blues, scoring only their second first quarter touchdown of the season as the teams were tied at 7-7 after the opening frame.

Legas played arguably the best game of his Utah State career, even with the interceptions, accounting for over 300 yards passing (363) and three touchdowns, while rushing for an addition 43 yards. His ability to elude pressure changed the Aggies offense for the better.

Additionally, receiver Jalen Royals continued a hot streak on the outside that has him now looking like a viable NFL prospect only a year after he didn’t record a single statistic for USU.

“I think I’m one of the best receivers in this conference and maybe college football,” Royals said after his third straight game with 100-plus receiving yards and at least two touchdowns.

And Utah State’s defense, young and inexperienced, is showing consistent signs of improvement, even on a night when it surrendered 37 points.

“I feel like we progress every week, especially the young guys,” linebacker MJ Tafisi said. “But the best thing about them is everyone is willing to learn and keep growing.”

Utah State was competitive for four quarters with the defending conference champions, who a week ago were undefeated and ranked in the Top 25.

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But the Aggies also proved they aren’t quite ready to compete at the level they need to to win the MW. Not yet at least, and probably not this year.

And so the process under Anderson will continue.

“We’re not results oriented, we’re process oriented,” he said. “We got better. We didn’t win, but you can’t guarantee the result. Anybody that thinks you can is lying to themselves. All you can guarantee is an opportunity, and we had an opportunity and we got better. That’s the best game we’ve played (this year). We didn’t get the result, but we did grow up in a lot of areas today.

“... There’s a lot of learning we can do, but there’s also a lot of positives. We faced a good football team and played a really solid game and a very close game, so we will try our best to continue to teach the way we always have and be hard on the mistakes.”

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