LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Aggies showed off their balance Saturday night in their Mountain West Conference home opener against Colorado State.
Gerold Bright had 36 carries for 179 yards -both career highs, while Jordan Love threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns as Utah State beat Colorado State 34-24 on Saturday night.
Jaylen Thomas’ 2-yard touchdown run gave the Rams (1-4, 0-1) a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter but Savon Scarver returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a score.
Love connected with Caleb Repp on a 40-yard TD pass to cap a 10-play, 82-yard drive and give the Aggies their first lead, at 24-21, with 1:08 left in the first half.
“That was a fight for sure,” said Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. “The kids battled through a lot of things. They battled through a weather delay, they battled through turnovers, but they fought, and they battled. It was not perfect by any means, and there is a lot to work on. The defense continually got put in poor spots tonight and found a way to keep on fighting and score points themselves. It was great to see the resilience of the football team.”
Bright finished with 198 all-purpose yards as he also caught two passes for 19 yards in the cold and rain. Utah State (3-1, 2-0 Mountain West) finished with 444 yards of total offense, including 240 on the ground.
“I know my coaches have faith in me,” said Bright, who lost a fumble in the first quarter. “They’ve got confidence in me and they believe in me, just as much as I believe in them and their play calling and schemes. As a player you’ve got to have short-term memory loss and move on to the next play, because that next play could be the best play.”
Defensively, the Aggies limited the Rams (1-4, 0-1 MW) to 296 yards of total offense, including just 70 yards on the ground from Marvin Kinsey Jr., who racked up 246 yards rushing a week ago against Toledo.
Linebacker David Woodward racked up a game-high 14 tackles for Utah State. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one of them, which he returned for an 8-yard touchdown to essentially seal CSU’s fate.
“I was relieved, looking around for a penalty just to make sure it counted,” Woodward said. “Our whole defense was pretty much in on that tackle and everyone did a great job of holding on long enough for me to get the ball out. I saw him getting held up, but slowly gaining a couple of yards, so I knew that I had a chance to strip it and make a play.”
Troy Lefeged Jr. added a career-best 11 tackles, including three tackles for loss, which was also a career high. Tipa Galeai tallied six tackles, a career-best four quarterback hurries and his first-career fumble recovery. Senior cornerback Cameron Haney had six tackles, as well, a career-high-tying three pass breakups and his first-career forced fumble.
“As a defense we love the weather, we love the rain and playing in different elements,” Woodward said. “It’s fun. I love playing in the rain because I’m from Washington and that’s what I’m used to. When adversity comes we all just accept it, and love fighting through it.”
The game was delayed before the two teams even kicked off as rain and lightning moved into the area.
Utah State, which extended its home winning streak to nine, battled back from three separate seven-point deficits in the first half as Colorado State turned a blocked punt and interception into 14 points.
Following a blocked punt by Troy Golden, the Rams struck first courtesy of a 2-yard touchdown run by Jaylen Thomas to make it 7-0 with 7:14 remaining in the opening quarter.
Just 13 seconds later, the Aggies answered back with a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Savon Scarver. It was Scarver’s fourth-career kickoff return for touchdown, which tied the school record previously set by Kevin Robinson.
CSU regained the lead early in the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Marvin Kinsey Jr., but again, the Aggies answered right back – less than two minutes later.
Jordan Love, who was 17-of-33 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns, connected with sophomore wide receiver Deven Thompkins from 37 yards out to knot the game at 14-apiece.
On Utah State’s next possession, Love threw a pass out in the flat that was intended for Siaosi Mariner. However, the Rams’ Andre Neal read it perfectly and intercepted it, returning it 44 yards for a pick-six to give the visitors a 21-14 lead.
Following a 42-yard field goal by senior placekicker Dominik Eberle, the Aggies took their first lead of the night just before the half on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Love to graduate transfer tight end Caleb Repp.
The Aggies went into the break with momentum and a 24-21 lead.
Utah State opened the second half with the ball, but Love’s second interception of the game led to a 45-yard field goal by Cayden Camper that pulled the Rams even at 24-all.
The Aggies regained the lead for good with 2:57 to go in the third quarter on a 48-yard field goal by Eberle. Utah State sealed it with Woodward’s fumble return for touchdown with 9:32 to go in the game, giving the Aggies their final margin of victory.
Utah State will step out of conference play when it travels to Baton Rouge, La., to face fourth-ranked LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC) on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Tiger Stadium. The game, which will be televised nationally on the SEC Network, will kick off at 10 a.m. (MT).