What We Learned From Utah State's 51-31 Romp Over Hawaii

What We Learned From Utah State's 51-31 Romp Over Hawaii

Hawaii

What We Learned From Utah State's 51-31 Romp Over Hawaii

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Holy crap the Aggies are 6-2


Aggies impress with 564 yards of offense, including four TDs from Logan Bonner


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Blake Anderson’s squad smashed its way to Bowl eligibility Saturday — and it’s not done yet

Just one week ago, we all watched in confused elation as the Aggies pulled off a home win against an iffy Colorado State team thanks to a mystifying decision by Rams head coach Steve Addazio to simply not employ a special teams coach, or care about special teams, or coaching in general. It was the Aggies’ fifth win of the season, but it raised some serious concerns — is Utah State a good team that simply survived an off-week, or a mediocre team that’s been outperforming its talent level most of the year?

Maybe we can’t answer that question just yet, but I can tell you the Aggies were a helluva lot better this weekend, beating the crap out of Hawaii 51-31 in a game featuring a bunch of offense, four different quarterbacks and a fair amount of garbage-time shenanigans. Let’s discuss.

The Fun First Quarter

Hawaii received the opening kickoff, formally met the Aggie defense and punted the ball away three plays later. Utah State’s offense took the field and turned immediately to emerging RB stud Elelyon Noa for your standard establish-the-run play up the middle, and establish it he did. Noa shook loose from what should’ve been a moderate gain and beastquaked his way through the entire Hawaii defense for a 36-yard pickup.

With the game’s tone sufficiently set in USU’s favor, Noa and starting QB Logan Bonner went to work. The pair diced up the Rainbow Warriors on this drive, first with a 17-yard completion to Justin McGriff (who can catch now), followed by 8-, 3- and 1-yard runs by Noa. Coach Anderson opted to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Hawaii 8 because why the hell not, only for Hawaii to get dinged with a holding penalty and gifting the Aggies a first down at the 4 anyway. Two rushes later, Noa burst into the end zone for the first score of the day.

Hawaii took that punch and tried valiantly to strike right back, with QB Chevan Cordeiro settling in with some short completions and a handful of runs to keep Utah State’s defense honest. Cordeiro directed a 70-yard, 12-play drive that sapped nearly five minutes off the game clock, and it would’ve been exactly what the doctor ordered if he hadn’t tried to force a pass into the end zone from the USU 5.

Instead, the sophomore QB took a snap on 3rd-and-goal and rolled right, expecting a receiver to spring open. When none did, Cordeiro tried to arc a pass over Byron Vaughns, who tipped it at the goal line into the loving care of senior LB Cash Gilliam for the game’s first turnover.

Taking over at the 20, Bonner went right back to the opening drive’s winning formula — a handoff to Noa for 12, a pass to McGriff for 5, another Noa run for 4, a keeper for 6, and yet another Noa handoff for 8. Seven plays into the drive and facing 3rd-and-2, Bonner decided this nickel-and-diming was getting old so he aired a 45-yarder out to Justin McGriff because football is meant to be fun. It fell right into McGriff’s arms for as smooth a touchdown as you’ll ever see, and suddenly the score was 14-0.

The Whatever Second Quarter

Recognizing a potential offensive statement game was on his hands, coach Anderson began spreading the ball around in the game’s second frame. Carson Terrell, Derek Wright (who had a really good game which we’ll discuss later), backup RB Pailate Makakona and the always-electric Deven Thompkins all saw action over the Aggies’ next three drives.

Utah State’s second quarter possessions ended with a 40-yard field goal from Connor Coles, a turnover on downs at the Hawaii 36 and another field goal for Coles from the Hawaii 5. Peasley saw some time at QB at the end of the half as well, and though many of his appearances this season have been pretty fun, this one wasn’t great. The Aggies’ resident backup QB missed a wide open Derek Wright in the end zone on third and goal, forcing the Aggies to kick the aforementioned chip shot field goal.

Hawaii also managed a field goal early in the quarter, then secured its first touchdown on a 7-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 29-yard completion to junior RB Dedrick Parson a few minutes before halftime. The score at the break was 20-10 in favor of the good guys, with Hawaii staying just within reach despite a pretty good day from the Aggie offense thus far.

The Outrageous Third Quarter

The Aggies scored three straight touchdowns to open the second half. First, Bonner made up for Derek Wright’s missed opportunity at the end of the first half by finding him on a pretty 46-yard bomb to make the score 27-10.

Following four plays and a punt from the Warriors, Bonner again loosed a 40-yarder — this time to verified star Deven Thompkins, who was all over the Hawaii secondary this game even if he was one of the only Aggie pass-catchers to finish the weekend without a touchdown. Thompkins played the ball in the air perfectly, sparking some legitimate discussion as to where his season (now over 1,000 yards with at least four games still to play) ranks among the all-time best in Aggie history.

What a dude.

Makakona saw a few more handoffs, McGriff continued his best game of the year with a 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-12, and the Aggies capped off another scoring drive with a 21-yard strike to the widest-open TE Carson Terrell you can imagine. Seriously, however open you think he was, it was more than that.

At 34-10, this one began to take on some added meaning beyond a critical sixth win for the upstart Aggies’ surprising season. They weren’t just beating Hawaii senseless — they were doing it with the swagger and poise of a team fully invested in the belief that they are not to be trifled with.

Utah State’s defensive line clamped down again and kept Hawaii to a 3-play, -1 yard “drive” that ended in another defeated punt. With the game well in hand, RB John Gentry took the field and saw a few handoffs before Bonner again ran the “find Thompkins and throw him the ball no matter what” play for 27 yards. Derek Wright shot open again to snag a 15-yard catch, then 13 more yards in two plays from Gentry saw the Aggies reach the Warriors’ 14 on 3rd and 7.

But why go for just seven yards when you can sling a pass over to Brandon Bowling and slip in another touchdown? 41-10, Aggies.

True, Hawaii didn’t roll over and die like a lesser team might’ve been tempted to do. Utah State began to cycle in defensive backs I’ve literally never heard of and the Warriors took advantage with an 8-play, 67-yard scoring drive.

On the ensuing kickoff, Thompkins wound up fielding and returning a kick 45 yards to the Hawaii 39 because of course he did. Peasley was back in at this point and the offense went backwards for two plays before a fumble ended the drive. It was an annoyingly sloppy play, but that’s why they call it garbage time.

At the end of a forever-long third quarter, Hawaii took another chunk out of USU’s sizable lead with a 27-yard completion to Calvin Turner Jr., who is good at football. Even in blowouts, it’s best not to give up 15 straight points to an opponent, just in case something awfully stupid happens.

An Awfully Stupid (but fun) Fourth Quarter

The Aggies ran 13 plays over roughly five minutes then kicked another field goal in an attempt to finally put this game to rest and hit the showers. Hawaii got the ball back and turned it over on downs before the HURD could even finish its free XL pizza. The light at the end of the tunnel was like, right there.

Alas, Peasley got caught in the backfield trying to extend an option run to the left, and rather than pitching it to his running back or simply taking the sack he opted to throw it so far in the wrong direction you could practically hear Makakona shouting “Bro what the hell?” as Hawaii ran the fumble recovery 60 yards the other way for a touchdown.

I mean, I guess that’s why it’s good to build a cushion. But yikes. The score was 44-31 with more than eight minutes to play, and it sort of felt like even 1% chance of losing this game was way more than Aggie fans should’ve had to deal with after such a promising outing.

Fortunately, on the very next play Hawaii attempted an onside kick with some minor trickeration beforehand to catch USU off-balance. The gamble did not pay off for the Warriors, as Brandon Bowling expertly snatched the ball mid-bounce and ran it back for a touchdown of his own.

This game was one bad targeting call away from featuring three straight wild scoring plays, but Utah State’s Zahodri Jackson was indeed slammed with a targeting penalty after teeing-off on Cordeiro for what looked like a clean sack-fumble and subsequent score by Nick Heninger. The call erased the touchdown but also saw Cordeiro (just recently back from a 3-week absence due to shoulder injury) leave the game.

Freshman backup QB Brayden Schager came in and was immediately intercepted by Monte’ McGary after forcing a throw through contact from Heninger, and that was all she wrote.

Quick Reactions Because This Recap is Already Long

Holy crap the Aggies are 6-2, with four entirely winnable games remaining. Back in June bowling seemed like the ceiling for this group, and now here we are in November with a postseason berth looking like it’s the new floor for the program’s foreseeable future. What a job by Blake Anderson, and what a difference a few months can make.

-Deven Thompkins cruised past 1,000 yards receiving this season with his sixth 100-yard game. I don’t know where he’ll rank in USU’s all-time record books, I just know nobody makes in-air adjustments to haul in deep passes quite like he does and it’s a joy to watch.

-Bonner went 21/30 for 361 and 4TDs, with zero interceptions. The team finished with 564 yards of total offense and five separate players finding the end zone. Elelyon Noa had 23 carries for 111 yards and a TD, boasting a 4.8 yards-per-carry average.

-Aggie defense was tenacious in this one, with a pair of interceptions, five sacks, 12 TFLs and a whole lot of Hawaii drives erased from existence before they could even really begin.

-This game was a lot of fun to watch. Aside from simply collecting wins, having fun is probably the best thing a team can do for itself. The players showed some swagger, played with confidence, and even took a small dance break to “Spooky Scary Skeletons” before a kickoff late in the game that got a Halloween-ready student section hyped beyond reason. What a ride this season has been — and how exciting that there’s still a whole lot left to enjoy.

 


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