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Highlights, key plays and photos from Utah State’s 35-16 loss to Fresno State

The Aggies fall to 0-4 for the first time since 2007, when they started the year 0-10 before winning the final two games of the season.

SHARE Highlights, key plays and photos from Utah State’s 35-16 loss to Fresno State
Utah State Aggies linebacker Elijah Shelton (41) sacks Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener (9).

Utah State Aggies linebacker Elijah Shelton (41) sacks Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener (9) in Logan on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Frank Maile era at Utah State got started Saturday afternoon and it looked much like the end of the Gary Andersen era.

Utah State lost its fourth consecutive game to start the season, falling to Fresno State 35-16.

The 0-4 start is the worst start by the Aggies since 2007, when they started 0-10 before winning the final two games of the year.

There were bright spots in the defeat, even though the Aggies surrendered 541 yards of total offense, while only mustering 343 yards themselves.

USU forced two turnovers, the teams only takeaways of the season thus far, rushed for over 200 yards and was great on special teams, with a kickoff return for a score the signature highlight.

None of it was enough to overcome a career outing by Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener, who threw for 422 yards and four touchdowns. Bulldogs wide receiver Jalen Cropper had 10 receptions for 202 yards and three touchdowns, while star running back Ronnie Rivers added 132 yards on the ground, 51 through the air.

Utah State was led by running back Jaylen Warren, who rushed for a team-high 136 yards and a touchdown, including an 86-yard scoring run.

Utah State is now 13-18-1 all-time against Fresno State, which includes a 9-5 record in Logan. Fresno State’s win is its first in the series since a 24-17 victory over USU in the inaugural Mountain West Championship game in 2013.

Passing woes continue

The Aggies had their best offensive game of the season, tallying a season-best 343 yards, much of which came on the ground. Warren and Devonate Henry-Cole combined for rush for 209 yards and a touchdown. And yet, the passing game remained almost as anemic as ever. Quarterback Jason Shelley completed only 9 of 24 passes for 144 yards. Additionally, he was sacked six times, a combination of his holding onto the ball too long and poor pass protection. Only four different Aggies had a reception in the game and none had more than three catches.

Big play ability

Through the first three games of the season, USU struggled to create any sort of chunk plays. That was not an issue against Fresno State. At least not as big of an issue. Warren had his 86-yard touchdown run, Savon Scarver returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, Deven Thompkins had a 44-yard reception and Devontae Henry-Cole had a long run of 24 yards.

Almost four quarters of defense

USU’s defense had shown flashes at times in losses to Boise State, San Diego State and Nevada, but wasn’t able to play a complete four quarter game. That remained the case against Fresno State, though there was improvement. After giving up 28 first half points, 21 of which came in the second quarter, USU held FSU to only one second half touchdown. The Aggies shut out the Bulldogs in the third quarter and only allowed a single score in the game’s opening period. Take away the second quarter, and Utah State was almost good defensively.


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End of 4th quarter

Fresno State 35, Utah State 16

Despite a season-best performance on special teams, as well as a much-improved defensive showing, the Aggies lost again, dropping their fourth consecutive game to start the season. It is the first time since 2007, when USU started the year 0-10 before winning the final two games of the year, that Utah State has lost its first four games of the season.

5:21 4th Quarter

Fresno State 35, Utah State 16

Jake Haener completed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Cropper, for Haener’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, the third to Cropper.

End of 3rd Quarter

Fresno State 28, Utah State 16

A few notes from the third quarter:

  • Six third quarter drives end in a punt, another in a fumble, as neither team was able to do much offensively after the break.
  • Utah State linebacker A.J. Vongphachanh forced a fumble, cutting the Bulldogs most effective drive of the quarter short. The fumble was USU’s second forced turnover of the game and season.
  • Shelley has struggled through three quarters, completing 3 of 10 passes for 52 yards, 44 of which came on one play at the end of the first half.
  • The Aggies’ running game, which was effective early, struggled to get going in the third, but Warren and Devonta’e Henry-Cole have combined to run for 195 yards.

End of 2nd Quarter

Fresno State 28, Utah State 16

A few notes from the second quarter:

  • Jake Haener has completed 21 of 27 passes for 318 and three touchdowns for Fresno State in the first half.
  • Haener’s favorite target? Jalen Cropper, who has eight receptions for 148 yards and two scores.
  • The Aggies have been led by Jaylen Warren, who has rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
  • Jason Shelley had his longest completed pass of the season, a 44-yard strike to Deven Thompkins that led to a field goal.
  • Utah State has been out-gained by Fresno State 394 to 213. The Bulldogs have run 48 plays, compared to 20 by the Aggies.

0:34 2nd Quarter

Fresno State 28, Utah State 16

The Bulldogs marched down the field in just over a minute, a drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers.

1:59 2nd Quarter

Fresno State 21, Utah State 16

USU kicker Connor Coles connected on a 38-yard field goal try, capping off an 8-play, 44-yard drive. The Aggies got as close to the end zone as the 1-yard line, before miscue’s forced the field goal try.

5:41 2nd Quarter

Fresno State 21, Utah State 13

Jake Haener dropped a dime to Josh Kelly for a 71-yard touchdown reception. The touchdown was Haener’s third touchdown pass of the game.

12:27 2nd Quarter

Fresno State 14, Utah State 13

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener found a wide open Jalen Cropper for a 59-yard touchdown.

End of 1st Quarter

Utah State 13, Fresno State 7

A few notes from the opening quarter:

  • USU has run only four offensive plays in total, but thanks to Warren’s touchdown run has 89 total yards, only 35 yards less than Fresno State, which has run 27 plays
  • Scarver’s kick return was the sixth of his career, and puts him just one kick return touchdown behind the NCAA record.
  • Shaq Bond recorded USUs first force turnover of the season, when he picked off Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener on the opening drive of the game.
  • Thanks to the shortage of offensive plays, USU is averaging an absurd 22.25 yards per play.

4:33 1st Quarter

Utah State 13, Fresno State 7

All-American kick returner Savon Scaver returned the kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, his sixth kick off return for a touchdown in his career.

4:46 1st Quarter

Fresno State 7, Utah State 6

Fresno State wasted little time answering USU’s score, as the Bulldogs marched 76 yards down the field in 6-plus minutes, a drive that ended in a nine-yard touchdown reception by Jalen Cropper.

11:02 1st Quarter

Utah State 6, Fresno State 0

On USU’s first offensive play of the game, running back Jaylen Warren broke through the Fresno State defense for an 86-yard touchdown, the longest touchdown run of his career.

Pre-game

Here are a few links to stories you may want to read prior to or during the game:

An early glimpse of what football in Logan looks like in November:

USU quarterback Jason Shelley warming up:

Fresno State is ready to go: