USU looks to end season on strong note against Golden Flashes
Bowl Season: Utah State (7-5) vs Kent State (6-6)
When: Friday, December 20th, 2019 – 5:30 pm MST
WHERE: Toyota Stadium; Frisco, Texas (20,500)
STREAMING: Sling TV – Get a seven-day free trial.
RADIO: Utah State radio broadcast on 1280 the zone (1280 AM), 1280thezone.com / Tunein.com
ODDS (via ESPN): Utah State -6.5
Three Keys to a Utah State victory
1. Get excited
It’s no secret just how uninspired and unmotivated USU looked against New Mexico in the regular season finale. Yes, Utah State won the game by double digits, but they didn’t look good for much of it. Thanks to a quick avalanche of mistakes and turnovers by New Mexico, the Aggies posted a dominant second quarter. However, the Aggies got outscored in the second half. In the final quarter, they didn’t score at all and looked like they were just trying to get out of Albuquerque as soon as possible.
Against Kent State, a flat performance could prove costly and end this season on a sour note. Kent State is going to a bowl game for the first time since 2012, and this is just their third bowl appearance in school history. The Golden Flashes are going to be plenty motivated to win this game and snap their winless postseason streak. Coming into the game, they’ve won three in a row, all within one possession. USU has done well in close games themselves this season, so they must take this upset-minded team seriously and come out swinging.
2. Lean heavily on the run game
Gerold Bright has a great opportunity to finish his senior year with a bang. He’s rushed for a solid 827 yards and eight touchdowns through the regular season. Against an extremely poor run defense like Kent State’s, he should be able to have a career game. He may not eclipse his season-high of 179 rush yards against Colorado State, but a monster performance is very much within reach and would put him close to 1,000 yards for the year. If Jaylen Warren is finally healthy enough to consistently help out, both of these backs can do some heavy damage to the Golden Flashes.
3. Contain Dustin Crum
Though Kent State will be hard pressed to win a defensive struggle against the Aggies, they can give themselves an excellent chance at winning in a shootout. QB Dustin Crum fuels Kent State’s offense with a good arm and dangerous rushing ability. He not only leads his team in net rushing yards, he rarely makes mistakes. Crum set a school record by completing over 68 percent of his passes, and his 18:2 touchdown to interception ratio is one of the best in college football. The sheer number of yards he’s responsible for on the season may not look eye-popping, but he’s made every one of them count.
This quarterback plainly has enough offensive balance to keep USU’s defense guessing. The Aggies have gotten burned on deep passes a lot this season, and that trend will continue unless the Aggie D-line can generate some much needed pressure. USU has only gotten a moderate number of sacks this season, coming in at 83rd in the NCAA with 22. It’s time for this defense to step up its game or risk getting an embarrassing loss.
USU has significantly improved its program in the last decade, making bowl games eight of the last nine seasons. Kent State is only in a bowl for the third time, having never won in the postseason. USU may look to end this decade on a winning note, but Kent State will be gunning for it extra hard.
This is going to be a close, hard-fought game. Even one or two mistakes could spell doom for either squad. In Jordan Love‘s last collegiate game, I expect him to have a convincing stat line burnished by a strong ground game from Bright and Warren. The Golden Flashes will never go away, but depth will come into play in the fourth quarter and the Aggies will come out and secure another trophy.
Utah State 38 – Kent State 34