What a difference a week makes. That, and a different opponent.
Seven days after falling at Iowa in their season opener, in what could be aptly called a mistake-marred contest, the Utah State Aggies returned home to Logan to host the Idaho State Bengals and things could not have gone much better.
Utah State defeated Idaho State 78-28 Saturday night behind a historic offensive performance.
Here are three takeaways from the Aggies’ first win of the season:
Three-headed rushing attack alters look of USU offense
With running backs Robert Briggs, Davon Booth and Rahsul Faison, Utah State appears to have its best rushing attack in the Blake Anderson era, which is saying something given Calvin Tyler Jr.’s success with the Aggies the last two seasons.
While all three backs struggled somewhat against the big Iowa Hawkeyes defensive front last week — Faison did break free for a few big runs late — none were bothered by the Idaho State defense, as they rushed for a combined 279 yards and four touchdowns.
Briggs is listed No. 1 on the depth chart, but all three backs saw action early and often against the Bengals and each showed big play ability, rushing for touchdowns of 40 yards (Booth), 58 yards (Briggs) and 60 yards (Faison).
Each back averaged at least 11 yards per carry and showcased breakaway speed. Booth and Faison also showcased an added dimension of elusiveness, with both breaking multiple tackles and/or evading tacklers during the long touchdown runs.
Booth and Faison were both accomplished backs at the JUCO level, with Briggs showing flashes with the Aggies last year as a freshman. The trio together appear to have given USU a dynamic rushing attack to pair with a balanced, veteran-led passing attack.
Completely different offense little problem for flexible Aggie defense
The big challenge, on paper, entering Saturday night’s game for USU was the Idaho State offense.
Unlike Iowa, which relied heavily on the run and play action pass, the Bengals are a pass-heavy RPO squad, throwing more passes than any team in Division I college football in Week 1.
The drastic difference between the two seemed to catch the Aggie defense off guard early in the game, with Idaho State scoring a touchdown early in the first quarter to answer an early USU score.
On that drive, the Bengals drove 75 yards in just seven plays, with most of the damage coming via an effective passing attack.
The USU defense settled down in a hurry, however, and quickly rendered the ISU passing attack ineffective.
While the Bengals finished with 323 passing yards, quarterbacks Jordan Cooke and Hunter Hays completed only 31 of 47 pass attempts, while also throwing two interceptions.
Turnovers rear their head, in a good way for Utah State
One of the biggest issues Utah State had against Iowa was an inability to force turnovers despite multiple genuine opportunities.
Head coach Blake Anderson named four specific opportunities against the Hawkeyes that the Aggies failed to take advantage of.
Against the Bengals, though, the Aggies made good use of their chances, forcing three turnovers — two interceptions and a fumble.
Safety Ike Larsen and cornerback Jaiden Francois recorded the picks, with Larsen returning his 40 yards for a touchdown and Francois returning his 76 yards for a score.
Cornerback Michael Anywanu, meanwhile, forced the fumble, with defensive end Cian Slone recovering it.
Two of the turnovers came during a record-breaking second quarter run by the Aggies, leading to 14 points for Utah State.
Larsen’s interception was the second pick six of his career, another heady on-ball play from the Aggies’ standout safety, while Francois’ interception was the first of his Aggie career.