They defied the tape.
“Watching them on film – I did not think it would be quite like that,” said head coach Brent Brennan on Utah State’s dominance. “I’m giving them a hell of a whole lot of credit, because I did not think it would be like a San Diego State, Nevada or a Wyoming. Utah State kicked our ass worse than all three of those teams.”
After Spartan cornerback Kenyon Reed’s 58-yard pick six in the first quarter, defensive lineman Cade Hall’s fumble recovery off Viliamo Fehoko’s strip sacked gave the ball back to the Spartan offense. Three plays later with running back Tyler Neven’s 19-yard dash and 1-yard TD run, it was 14-0 Spartans.
Utah State’s defensive front seven went ferocious and the San Jose State offense flat-lined from 30 seconds into the second quarter onwards.
It was all Aggie football in a 48-17 win going away
“We’ve had good offense line play like when San Diego State was top 10 in the country, we were able to run the ball effectively and throw it well enough to almost win,” said Brennan. “I just give Utah State’s defensive staff a lot of credit.”
The Spartans experienced their worst offensive performance – 150 total offensive yards of which 138 yards were passing and 12 yards total rushing.
“That defense front – the stuff that they do where they line up guys and have guys walking around before the play,” said Spartan QB Nick Starkel. “And you’re not really sure who’s blitzing, who’s bailing, and you pair that with a secondary that’s also messing around giving you two high rotating to one high – that’s tough, because you end up having to trust your eyes after the snap and hope you have things locked up right and you’re wrong and it ruins a drive.”
Starkel added, “Like when I identify the wrong front and there’s a free guy coming, and I have to end up throwing the ball away – that’s all a win for their defense.”
The Spartans had the crowd; the early lead and even some momentum coming off a tough loss to Nevada, but Utah State was a whole other beast. They were a loose, confident and aggressive bunch often seen joking and dancing between plays before high gearing it all throughout the game.
Led by Utah State QB Logan Bonner’s 4 TD tosses (20-33, 263 yards passing, 1 INT), the Aggie’s quick tempo, hurry-up offense would tax the Spartan defense with five succinct scoring drives.
Things got even tougher for the Spartan defense when the Spartan offense gave up their 10th and 11th fumbles for loss for the season putting the Spartan defense on a short field each time.
5’7, 155 lb. Aggie receiver Deven Thompkins was also as advertised. Number one in the nation in receiving yards, Thompkins 127 yards receiving often bailed out Utah State’s offense at times when the Spartan defense seemed to be getting off the field (where the Spartan offense could not stay on the field).
Absolutely nothing is easy
Every conference game has been a challenge and the end of the season is proving to be very steep with hardened teams seemingly starting to wear on the Spartans, who’ve experienced some injuries.
“That does play a role and the way our schedule works out where we had a bye week at the beginning of the season and one at the end,” said Hall on the physical demands facing consecutive top conference teams. “We’re at the end of a stretch of very tough opponents, so this bye week is much needed, and we’ll use it to heal up and get ready for Fresno State.”
San Jose State’s rivalry game for the Valley Trophy is in a week-and-a-half and the tension is already here. The Spartans last hope to become bowl eligible by beating the 8-3 Bulldogs at CEFCU Stadium is on Thanksgiving Day.