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Lopsided loss to BYU overshadows improved offensive performance by Utah State

The Aggies took a step forward on offense, albeit a small one, in the 42-14 loss to the Cougars

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Utah State Aggies wide receiver Siaosi Mariner (80) makes a catch while defended by Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Chris Wilcox (32) during the first half of an NCAA football game at Maverik Stadium in Logan on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. 

Colter Peterson, Deseret News

LOGAN — Utah State coach Gary Andersen was understandably in no mood to talk late Saturday night.

His Aggies had just been handled at home by the rival BYU Cougars, after all.

Utah State’s 42-14 loss to BYU was the team’s second blowout loss in as many weeks, coming on the heels of a 31-7 defeat at Air Force.

A season which had once looked so promising was unraveling before Andersen’s eyes.

So, when asked to make an opening statement on the game, Andersen gave a simple and terse report.

“BYU outplayed us,” he said. “They deserved to win. They did. Congratulations to them. We got outplayed.”

Andersen didn’t become particularly loquacious after that, either.

When questioned as to the reason for the Aggies’ second-half collapse — Utah State was outscored 21-0 over the final two quarters of the game — he was even more succinct.   

“Turnovers. Bad tackling,” he said. 

“If you look at it as a whole, looking at more than just Jordan (Love), we had some mojo at times tonight, which was good to see. We got some things going. We got the ball moving.” — Utah State coach Gary Andersen

One topic did get Andersen talking, though: Utah State’s offense.

For the first time in weeks, USU’s offense looked some semblance of its former self, and Andersen noticed.

“If you look at it as a whole, looking at more than just Jordan (Love), we had some mojo at times tonight, which was good to see,” Andersen said. “We got some things going. We got the ball moving.”

The Aggies finished with 521 yards of total offense, 394 passing and 127 rushing.

The 394 yards were the most thrown by quarterback Jordan Love since he threw for 416 yards in the season opener against Wake Forest. 

Love completed 29 of 49 pass attempts against the Cougars, good for a completion percentage of nearly 60%, which was better than anything he mustered in any game over the last month.

And, like Andersen said, he wasn’t alone.

Running back Gerold Bright had 120 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown.

Wide receiver Jordan Nathan had a career outing, with a team-high seven catches for 133 yards.

Siaosi Mariner (five catches for 86 yards and a touchdown), Caleb Repp (three catches for 41 yards) and Savon Scarver (three catches for 35 yards) all made an impact.

The Aggies ran 82 plays, another step forward, and were 9 of 16 on third down. 

Even time of possession was notable, as the offense had the ball for nearly 25 minutes.

“We had some yards out there,” Andersen said. “Finished with 521 yards, ran 82 plays. ... You saw significant improvement from the past couple weeks on offense.”

It wasn’t all good.

Despite racking up yards, Utah State mustered only 14 points.

Love had four turnovers in the game — three interceptions and a fumble. Bright fumbled, too, and the Aggies’ offense turned the ball over on downs deep in BYU territory at a critical juncture, late in the third quarter.

“We have to finish drives and we can’t turn the ball over,” said Andersen. “You didn’t see us finish drives because of turnovers or a big sack. To get back (to what we want to be), we have to understand our deficiencies, and when we continually understand our deficiencies I believe we can be the offense we want.”

The hope that Utah State can find itself again on offense should only grow after the team’s latest outing, though, as the Aggies feel there was something there that they can build upon.

“Obviously we got outplayed today by our biggest rival, but I feel like games like this will help us take a step forward on offense,” Nathan said. “We trusted the system more than we had in the past couple weeks. It’s been very frustrating, but we have to fight through. We have to find our sweet spot in this offense. If that’s playing pitch-and-catch and blocking up front and running through stuff and making extra great plays, then that’s what we have to do as an offense. We can’t be hesitant anymore. We have to be willing to make plays for this team in order to get what we want. It’s a process.”

One Utah State has finally made progress with.