Utah State buries Oregon State to cap off magical season

Utah State buries Oregon State to cap off magical season

Utah State

Utah State buries Oregon State to cap off magical season

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The Aggies capped off arguably the best season in school history with a convincing victory over a Pac-12 team. They won in an inaugural bowl game for the first time and also won over a P5 team in a bowl for the first time. Let’s recap how an initially slow start morphed into a romp for the Aggies.

First Quarter

The game could not have started worse for the Aggies. Though they won the toss and deferred, the Beavers wasted absolutely no time in marching down the field for an easy score. It only took three plays for them to find the end zone, which was capped by a Jesiah Irish 20-yard jet sweep scamper.

The Aggies struggled to respond as they were held scoreless in the first quarter. Their first drive resulted in a punt, and then after the Aggie defense woke up to force a punt in return from the Beavers, Logan Bonner was picked off in the end zone by Akili Arnold to squash a scoring drive.

On the next drive for OSU, Nick Heninger started to play as a man possessed as he crunched Beaver QB Chance Nolan. The DE got his first sack of the night and would finish with three all by himself, a black eye to a Beaver OL that had only allowed 10 sacks all season.

For a brief moment, USU fans everywhere started to get nervous after Logan Bonner left the game with an apparent knee injury. His return was uncertain and nobody was quite sure what we had in third-string QB Cooper Legas.

Second Quarter

Legas began an electric performance with his first pass. He audibled out of the play call and threw a 62-yard strike to Deven Thompkins to knot the game up at seven a piece. This was his first collegiate pass, and it was the first time in over 25 years any collegiate QB threw a TD pass in a bowl game on their first attempt per ESPN.

The Beavers responded with a decent scoring drive. RB Anthony Gould gashed the Aggies for 10 yards, and then B.J. Baylor added a couple of runs to set up another first down. QB Chance Nolan then lobbed a pass to Teagan Quitoriano for 21-yards. The Aggies struggled to prevent chunk yardage and OSU got down inside the USU 30-yard line with ease.

At this point, the Beavers stalled out a bit and several incomplete passes and a false start penalty ensured they had to settle for a FG attempt. Everett Hayes initially missed from 42 yards out, but an illegal formation penalty on the Aggies gave the kicker a second chance and he padded OSU’s lead by three.

USU fought back with their own scoring drive and found the end zone in 11 plays. Calvin Tyler had a few strong runs early in the drive and then Legas completed passes to Thompkins and Bowling, one of which was aided by a PI call on the Beaver defense. Down at the OSU 15-yard line, Calvin Tyler went beastmode and ran hard through several defenders to notch his only TD on the night.

The Aggies were starting to play with serious confidence and the defense backed it up further.

The Aggies initially had the Beavers stuffed, but an unnecessary roughness penalty by Byron Vaughns extended the drive. Nick Heninger again punished Nolan with a sack and the Beavers were unable to gain a first down after a good run and then a subsequent false start penalty.

USU would end up punting as Legas took a sack and the run game was unable to get going. The offense had cooled, but there was no need to panic as the half was coming to an end. OSU attempted a fake kneel down that was quickly snuffed out for a loss and the teams entered the locker room.

Third Quarter

USU received the ball to begin the half. Plays were small early, but the Beavers’ penchant for penalties came up to bite them. A PI penalty extended the drive for USU and Calvin Tyler ran a couple times for a first down. The Beavers committed PI again to get the Aggies into Beaver territory. Legas completed a 17-yard pass to Derek Wright and then threw another good pass to Elelyon Noa for a gain of 11. Noa followed this up with an 11-yard burst and helped get the Aggies down inside the 15-yard line.

Legas took a sack and the drive stalled, resulting in a Connor Coles FG, which barely snuck in the bars. Ags had a seven point lead that felt disappointing but still comfortable.

OSU showed off their physicality on their next drive. The length and athleticism bothered USU badly as the Aggies struggled to tackle and slow down a physically superior team. It looked dicey, but the drive ultimately resulted in a missed field goal from 44 yards out. USU dodged a bullet in what seemed like a potentially momentum shifting drive.

After flirting with disaster, the Aggies shrugged it off and responded with a decisive series. Calvin Tyler gained a good chunk on first down, and then USU reached into the bag of tricks to punish the Beavers. Legas took the snap and threw backwards to Derek Wright. Wright then passed the ball back to Legas, who was now largely alone on his side of the field. He picked up 34 yards on the pass and catch to get deep into Beaver territory.

Legas threw a quick pass to Thompkins which he parlayed into an 18-yard gain. Both Legas and Elelyon Noa had some short runs to keep the defense honest, and then Legas found Brandon Bowling in the back of the end zone all by himself to put the Aggies up over the Beavs 24-10.

OSU went into desperation mode as they felt this game could get away from them. They showcased their big body receivers and runners and bullied their way into Aggie territory. Nolan hit Tre’Shaun Harrison in stride for a 16-yard pickup and then Jack Colletto ran for eight yards after some chunk passes. B.J. Baylor then grabbed a 17-yard catch to get in the red zone and end the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter

In what turned out to be a critical play, Nick Heninger got his third sack on the night at USU seven-yard line. The Beavers were pushing for the end zone, but the senior DE had other ideas, resulting in a FG attempt. The Beavers were still down two scores, and though they proved they were good at possessing the ball, they were not quick with their scoring drives.

Legas threw an interception on the Aggies’ next drive, but it was deep into OSU territory, which ultimately didn’t hurt the Aggies much. OSU again got things going with their strong-bodied receivers, but the drive was snuffed out fairly quickly by Justin Rice. The sneaky ILB punched the ball out from a receiver and then AJ Vongphachanh got a clean recovery on the fumble for USU.

USU would go on to burn a couple of minutes on a conservative possession. After getting the ball back, it would ultimately be the Beavers’ last meaningful chance to make a comeback in the contest.

Nolan found Quitoriano for a nine-yard pickup and the Baylor hammered USU for a 20-yard burst. The Beavers committed the first of two false starts on this possession and soon found themselves in a 4th and 12 situation with the game on the line.

In a play that reminded all us Aggie fans how things were rarely easy this season, Luke Musgrave nabbed the ball and proceeded to make no less than five guys miss the tackle. It was the sixth and seventh Aggie defender that finally made the play and got Musgrave on the ground, mere inches short of converting the first down.

After getting the ball back, USU took command on the drive and burned clock. With under five minutes to go in the game, the Beavers committed a critical 15-yard penalty and defensive back Austin Alex got ejected for punching Justin McGriff multiple times. The Ags were on the verge of another score and the Beavs were licking their wounds.

In a rare mistake, USU got inside the five-yard line and Calvin Tyler put the ball on the ground. There was a mad scramble for it in the end zone, but OSU came up with it to prevent a blowout score.

The Beavs tried one more time to go the distance, but USU DB Hunter Reynolds intercepted Nolan’s pass, securing the victory.

Final Thoughts

Relatively speaking, this is likely USU’s finest hour as a football program.

They played their third major television network game this season and showed out when it mattered most. They achieved a perfect 8-0 road record for the first time in school history. Deven Thompkins not only set the school record for most receiving yards in a season, he set the record for most receptions as well. Though Logan Bonner left the game early with injury, his toughness helped him accumulate 36 passing touchdowns on the year, something even Jordan Love didn’t accomplish in his time here.

Even without Bonner this game, it turned out to be no problem. Legas answered the call with gusto and seized one of the biggest wins the program has ever gotten. The spotlight wasn’t too much and this team has accomplished feats we may never see again.

I’ve said it previously and I’ll say it again: it’s the best time to be an Aggie. This coaching staff and these players are genuinely special and they revived a program that was reeling just one year ago and they made it flourish these last few months. Hopefully we have even more fun heading into the 2022 season.

Who doesn’t love the spot where the sagebrush grows!

 

 

 

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