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What could go wrong went wrong for Utah State against Boise State

The Aggies played their worst game of the season against the Broncos Saturday night, across the board.

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Utah State wide receiver Jalen Royals, left, gets tackled by Boise State safety Zion Washington (31) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Logan, Utah.

Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP

For a quarter and change Saturday night in Logan, the Utah State Aggies appeared to be on the verge of doing something not often seen in either Cache Valley or in Boise.

The Aggies looked like they were going to defeat Boise State.

Since 1998, USU has defeated BSU only one time, a 52-26 win at home in 2015.

But a minute into the second quarter in the latest meeting inside Maverik Stadium, Utah State held a 10-0 lead.

More than that, the Aggies’ defense was flying around and had limited Boise State to a measly 44 yards of offense in the first quarter.

Additionally, the Aggies’ offense had generated multiple explosive plays, including a 57-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Jalen Royals and a season-long 49-yard rush by running back Davon Booth that set up a USU field goal.

Everything was looking up for Utah State.

Good times rarely last long, however.

And in Utah State’s case, they ended at the 14:43 mark of the second quarter.

That was when Boise State scored its first touchdown of the game, a career-long 75-yard scoring run by Broncos running back George Holani.

From then on, it was all Broncos.

Boise State scored 45 unanswered points against the Aggies en route to a 45-10 victory.

Another blowout in a series of blowouts in what has been an uncompetitive series between Utah State and Boise State.

“This is not how we wanted to send the seniors out on senior night,” Utah State head coach Blake Anderson said.

“I loved the way we came out defensively early and got some stops, I love the fact that we were able to get in the end zone and go up 10-0, but beyond that, not much happened that was very positive.”

And that is putting it nicely.

With a quarterback who struggled to throw the ball consistently in Taylen Green — he finished the game 8 of 17 for 93 yards — Boise State relied heavily on the run and the Aggies could do nothing to stop it, even when everyone in the stadium knew what was coming.

Boise State rushed for over 200 yards in the second quarter alone and finished the game with 352 yards on the ground.

It was such that there wasn’t one glaring issue. Everything was an issue as the Aggies tried to stop the Broncos.

“We knew we had to stop the run,” Anderson said. “And that they have a really well built O-line and a quarterback that is a problem, and regardless of what running back they put on the field, they are all brilliant players.

“We had ways to change the tempo up and blitz them. We had ways to play coverage, and I would say that (defensive coordinator) Joe (Cauthen) probably exhausted every ounce of his call sheet tonight to try and find ways to get stops and we didn’t.”

The Aggies also turned the ball over four times, two fumbles — one by running back Robert Briggs, the other by quarterback McCae Hillstead — and two interceptions — one by Hillstead, another by wide receiver Terrell Vaughn — all of which led to Bronco touchdowns.

“We turned the ball over too much,” Anderson said. “We haven’t put the ball on the ground much this year. We’ve thrown some picks but have not put the ball on the ground a lot, so to have two on the ground today, we can’t have that.”

Utah State could not protect the quarterback and gave up nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss, while losing both Hillstead and starter Cooper Legas to injury.

The Aggies were simply beaten down by a superior opponent in every facet of the game for nearly 45 minutes of game play.

“We got manhandled,” Anderson said. “We got manhandled on both fronts. Our O-line got manhandled and our defensive line got manhandled. That’s the nature of the night.”

It was a loss that left nothing but bitterness in the mouths of the Aggies, and understandably so.

“It sucks, of course,” Royals said. “You’re losing. We had a game I thought we could have played better, but it is what it is.”

Anderson isn’t interested in his team shrugging off the setback to Boise State, however.

Of that he was clear postgame, while raucous cheers from Broncos locker room sounded out from below.

“We’ve got a short week to get ready for New Mexico,” he said. “We still have an opportunity to go to a bowl game, which will be huge for this group considering all that we’ve dealt with in the offseason and the schedule that we’ve played, but tonight I’m disappointed with how we played.

“We’ve got to get better in terms of protecting the football, we’ve got to get better against the run defensively and we got to be able to cover bodies up and run the ball more effectively against really good fronts and protect the quarterback when we need to push the ball downfield, so we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re going to keep doing that. We’re going to keep attacking those problems.”

Anderson continued: “(We need to) remember what it feels like right now, to come out of a game where you feel like no matter what we call right now, we’re not having success, we’re getting manhandled. Remember what it feels like because you close the gap in the offseason. You close the gap in the weight room with nutrition and by doing exactly what’s asked and by really understanding just how physical and hard and how much work we have to do in the spring and summer.

“It’s easy when you get to June to forget what it felt like to get your (expletive) kicked. Don’t forget about what it feels like right now. Don’t forget what it felt like in San Jose, when you feel helpless because you’re not winning those battles. There’s no easy shortcut to get to that point. It takes a lot of hard work.”

Based on how they played against Boise State, the Aggies have no shortage of work ahead of them, even if bowl eligibility becomes a reality with a win over New Mexico on Friday.

At least if the goal is to be more than a middling, run-of-the-mill Group of Five team.

Which is what the Aggies were Saturday night against Boise State.

Anything but special.