Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Aggies Cage Bengals, 40-20, In Home Opener Saturday Night

Utah State football scored 27-straight points spanning the second and third quarter to pull away from a 6-6 tie and open up a 33-6 lead en route to a 40-20 win against Idaho State Saturday night at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium.

Utah State leveled their season record at 1-1 on the young season, while Idaho State fell to 0-2, with both losses to Utah teams after a 56-14 loss at Utah last week. USU improves to 15-2 all-time against ISU, winning the last four meetings, as well as moving to 12-1 in games at Logan.

Utah State finished with 427 yards of total offense with 311 rushing and 116 passing, posting season-highs for total offense and rushing. Idaho State ended the night with 408 yards of total offense, with 307 through the air and 101 rushing.

Senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton threw for 116 yards on 13-of-30 passing, while rushing for a team-high 74 yards on eight carries with a 10-yard scoring scamper. Junior running back Rashad Hall rushed for a career-best 69 yards on 11 carries with a 5-yard touchdown run that was USU's first touchdown of the night and started the Aggies' 27-straight scoring spurt. Senior running back Joe Hill also ran for 69 yards on 15 carries with a 1-yard score to open USU's third-quarter scoring. Sophomore running back Kennedy Williams also got in on the career-high rushing outing with 43 yards on two carries, boosted by a career-long 34 rush.

Sophomore wide receiver JoJo Natson led Utah State's receiving corps with 59 yards on six catches, adding a 29-yard rush that would have been a touchdown but was called back due to a penalty. Natson did find the end zone on a 52-yard punt return, darting around ISU defenders then through a huge hole created by a convoy of blockers to payturf.

The Aggie defense was led by sophomore safety Devin Centers and junior linebacker LT Filiaga with 10 tackles apiece, with Centers posting one sack, while Filiaga was in on half of a tackle for loss. Freshman cornerback Jalen Davis snared two interceptions, including returning one 44 yards for a touchdown. Senior safety Brian Suite also added an interception, as the Aggie defense snared three interceptions off ISU quarterback Justin Arias as well as sacking him once.

Arias ended 23-of-47 passing for 307 yards with two touchdowns. KW Williams snared four catches for 109 yards with one score, while Broc Malcom added one touchdown catch as part of his three receptions for 59 yards. Madison Mangum had a team-high six catches for 82 yards. Xavier Finney finished with 88 yards on the ground with 23 carries.

Mario Jenkins led the Bengal defense with 16 tackles, while Tyler Kuder adding 11 and Cody Sorensen notched 10 stops. Jenkins had the lone interception for ISU.

Utah State took the opening kickoff and marched down the field to the ISU 37 before the drive thwarted and the Aggies attempted a field goal. Sophomore Jake Thompson came on to attempt a 54-yard field goal, but it was partially blocked by ISU's Hayden Stout and didn't reach the uprights.

Davis ended the Bengals' ensuing possession with his first interception, setting up the Aggies at the ISU 22. USU couldn't move the chains and settled for a 31-yard field goal by senior placekicker Nick Diaz for a 3-0 lead at the 10:13 mark of the first quarter.

Diaz later drilled a 24-yarder with 1:16 to go in the first frame for a 6-0 Aggie advantage, which was the score at the end of the quarter.

Idaho State opened the second quarter with a 21-yard field goal from Zak Johnson at the 13:39 mark, and later evened the score at 6-all with another Johnson upright split, this time from 49-yards out with 9:59 to go in the half.

Hall broke up the field goal party with his 5-yard scoring scamper with 2:33 left in the second quarter and Diaz hit the PAT for a 13-6 USU lead. The score stayed that way for just over a minute, as the Aggie defense limited the Bengals to a three-and-out, then Natson took the ISU punt and returned it 52-yards for his third career punt return for a touchdown. Diaz split the uprights for a 20-6 USU lead that the Aggies took into halftime.

Suite snared his interception on ISU's opening possession of the second half, giving USU the ball at the Bengal 17. Three plays later Hill darted around the right side and dove into the end zone, putting the Aggies ahead 26-6 as Diaz' PAT bounced off the upright.

ISU's ensuing possession lasted all of two plays as Davis snared an Arias pass, and took it 44-yards to the house on the pick-six. Diaz connected on the PAT for a 33-6 Aggie advantage with 12:09 to go on the third-quarter clock.

The Bengals scored their first touchdown of the night on a 42-yard pass play from Arias to Malcom and Johnson's extra point made it 33-13 at the 6:27 point of the third stanza.

Keeton's 10-yard scamper capped the Aggies' scoring for the night and Diaz hit the PAT for their 40th point of the game with 4:03 left.

ISU ended the game's scoring with a 52-yard scoring pass, catch and run from Arias to Williams with 2:35 left and USU ran out the clock to seal its first victory of the season.

Utah State will remain home next weekend as it hosts its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in Wake Forest on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. The game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network

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