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Utah State Aggies offense does enough, defense doesn’t in Frisco Bowl loss to Kent State Golden Flashes

The Aggies lost to the Golden Flashes 51-41, despite a standout final outing for quarterback Jordan Love

Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum (14) carries the ball as Utah State safety Troy Lefeged Jr. (3) defends during the first half of the Frisco Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, in Frisco, Texas.
Brandon Wade, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Had the Utah State Aggies put up the offensive numbers that they did Friday night in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl in practically any other game this season, it would have meant certain victory.

The A in the bell tower of Old Main would have been lit blue, quarterback Jordan Love would have been roundly praised and the Aggies would have walked away with their heads held high, another victory in the books.

As it is, Love was and will be praised for his final game played in a Utah State uniform. The junior quarterback threw just seven incompletions against the Kent State Golden Flashes, finishing 30-for-37 with 317 yards and three touchdowns, to just one interception. He is now the program leader in total yards in a career and accounted for 52 touchdowns in just two years. Love also falls just one win shy of being the winningest quarterback in Utah State history, trailing only Tony Adams.

Like Love, the Aggies’ offense on the whole will leave Frisco, Texas, with their heads held high, having finished with 506 yards of total offense against Kent State, including 189 yards on the ground.

Running back Gerold Bright rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown in his final game as an Aggie, a strong final showing. Wide receiver Siaosi Mariner capped off his one year in Logan with 113 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. Fellow wideout Deven Thompkins was perhaps the most impressive Aggie of them all, running for 57 yards and a score — all of which came on one play — and recording 51 yards receiving and another touchdown.

The Frisco Bowl was not any other game this season, unfortunately, and as good as Utah State was on offense, Kent State was better. Led by quarterback Dustin Crum, Kent State defeated Utah State 51-41 in a high-scoring back-and-forth thriller.

Crum finished with 436 yards of total offense himself, 289 of which came through the air, the other 147 on the ground. He scored three touchdowns, the last of which, a 4-yard touchdown run, sealed the first-ever bowl victory for Kent State.

Wide receivers Isaiah McKoy and Antwan Dixon each had strong outings, as well, finishing with 103 yards receiving and a touchdown and 99 yards receiving and a score, respectively.

Turnovers ultimately proved the Aggies undoing, that and a poor overall defensive performance that saw USU surrender 550 yards of total offense to KSU. It was an interception thrown by Love, a fumble by Bright and misread punt by Jordan Nathan that led to USU finishing minus-2 in the turnover battle.

“Turnovers are always a huge part of every football game,” said Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. “It was on the offense to make sure we didn’t turn it over. We’ve been just OK in that category, which is probably being just a little bit nice. When you see our numbers, we’re in the minus area for turnovers this season and that’s not where you want to be. … There are so many things that come into play in a football game that are important and turnovers are definitely one of them.”

With the loss, Utah State finishes 7-6 on the season, Gary Andersen’s first back at the helm. While not the finish they were hoping for, Andersen argued the 2019 campaign was still a success.

“I would say that this absolutely does not define a season in any way, shape, or form,” he said. “Our belief is that if you get to six or seven wins, you’re a good football team because you get rewarded. A lot of people here from Logan hear me say this and you’ll hear me say it a thousand times more, but that’s a fact. If you get to six or seven wins, you’re a good football team and you get rewarded with a chance to come to an unbelievable atmosphere in a bowl game. That’s special. Your whole season as a whole defines itself — where you are in your win totals, how your kids are academically, how they are growing as young men, how they are socially. There are so many ways to gauge a football team. At the end, I realize we’re all just measured by our wins and losses, but I promise you it’s a hell of a lot more than just sitting back and saying we won six games, nine games or 11 games. I guarantee it.”