Utah State Walk Off With Thrilling Win Over Fresno State
Aggies offense comes alive in win over Bulldogs.
Eberle knocks down game winning kick and potentially saves USU’s season
It appears Utah State may make a bowl this season after all. After an awful couple of weeks, USU gets back in the win column with an ugly but nonetheless gratifying win over a Jorge Reyna led-Bulldogs team. The Aggies are now 4-1 in MW conference play and kept their title hopes alive with a gutty effort on the road.
The game didn’t start well for the Aggie defense. Fresno State drove the length of the field, scored, and ate up nearly seven minutes of clock. USU’s defensive third down woes continued and Fresno QB Jorge Reyna even slipped the noose a couple of times when the Aggies had him dead to rights. In an alarming trend that has showed for the last few weeks, the Aggies have yet to learn how to tackle the opposing player.
Fortunately, USU’s offense responded with a quicker and prettier touchdown drive. Jordan Love looked mighty comfy in the pocket and made throws we’ve been waiting to see since at least the San Diego State game in late September. To top off the drive, Gerold Bright bolted for 21 yards and dragged a Fresno defender on him into the endzone.
Neither defense was able to stop anybody for much of the game. Both the Aggie and Bulldog secondaries looked terrible, and one of the only interceptions of the night by either team was wiped away by a holding penalty on DJ Williams.
Before halftime, USU got the ball back and mounted another convincing drive. Jordan Nathan made a stupidly good catch with two Bulldog defenders all over him, and then Siaosi Mariner followed it up with another unbelievable grab in the endzone to go up 21-14.
In the second half, USU got the ball first and quickly scored again using RB Jaylen Warren. Looking healthy for the first time in weeks, Warren bowled over two Bulldog defenders to go up 28-14. It looked like the Aggies were about to run away with it.
Credit the Bulldogs, they never gave up. They responded with a drive of their own and used RB Ronnie Rivers to great effect, who would end his night with 102 yards rushing on just 17 carries for three TD runs. He was very fast and made the Aggie defense look silly at times.
After going up 35-31 late in the fourth quarter on another quick Rivers run, Fresno appeared to be on their way to a comeback victory. USU kicker Dominik Eberle had other plans, though. Eberle altogether kicked three FGs in this game. His last would be the most consequential.
After USU’s offense went for it on 4th and 1 and got stuffed near the goal line with around five minutes to go, USU’s defense stepped up big and forced a quick three and out from Fresno’s offense. USU just needed to get into field goal range.
After a couple good passes, a critical hands to the face penalty on the Bulldog defense set USU up nicely inside the 30-yard line. USU would then go on to center the ball and take a timeout with 0:02 left on the clock.
With time expired, Eberle kicked a 30 yarder for the first game-winning kick in his career. This was also the first game-winning kick for USU since 1998 when Brad Bohn delivered the dagger to North Texas.
There’s little doubt just how much USU needed this win. Jordan Love was having a disappointing season and the offense was having major problems, but that unit looked night and day better vs Fresno State than against Air Force and BYU.
Love finished the night with 388 passing yards with two TDs and no picks. He looked the part of an early-round NFL draft pick and could see his stock regain some steam. The run game was balanced enough and the offensive line only gave up one sack. Not too shabby for a unit that has had some major injury issues this season.
Though the defense still has major issues, more playtime for the young replacements of David Woodward and Tipa Galeai will pay dividends down the road. The Aggies need to tackle better and stick closer to the opposing WRs on passing downs to help get more pressure on the quarterback. Reyna successfully picked the Aggie secondary apart and that can’t continue if USU wants to win out.
The three remaining games on the schedule look winnable. If the Aggie offense continues to click and the defense keeps making strides, USU’s conference title hopes are still within reach. Both Wyoming and Boise State’s offenses struggled against each other in a low scoring affair on the blue turf. USU gets to play both teams in Logan over the next two weeks. New Mexico is still terrible.
Despite their fierce defense, if Wyoming can’t come up with answers on offense, USU should be able to win a close one at home. And with Boise State, with the status of Hank Bachmeier still up in the air, USU could face the less dynamic and more mistake-prone Chase Cord. This crazy sport we love goes every which way, but the title path for the Aggies is nonetheless there.