BYU came into Friday’s game as a 21-point favorite, and it looked like they were well on their way right out of the gate. Taysom Hill completed a 53 yard pass to Jordan Leslie to open things up. A few plays later, Hill followed it with a rushing touchdown to put the Cougars ahead. On the ensuing Aggie drive Darrell Garretson fumbled and the Cougars recovered. That was about where the good fortune ended for BYU. Utah State moved the ball at will for the rest of the first quarter, which ended in a 7-7 tie. Despite a BYU touchdown to open the second quarter, that frame belonged to Utah State. The Aggies outscored BYU 21-7 to make it 28-14 at halftime.
But the biggest story of the first half wasn’t the score (albeit surprising to the sellout crowd at Lavell Edwards Stadium) it was the injury of star quarterback Taysom Hill. On a broken play towards the end of the second quarter, Hill scrambled to his right and landed awkwardly on his left leg. Bronco Mendenhall confirmed BYU fans’ worst fears when he announced that Taysom would be out for the remainder of the season. The injury is a fractured leg, which will take 3-4 months to heal. The uncertainty that now surrounded the remainder of the season lingered into halftime, dampening the mood for Jim McMahon’s jersey retirement. Athletic director Tom Holmoe, and former head coach Lavell Edwards honored the BYU legend. McMahon lightened the lull in the crowd by joking about his blatant disregard for the honor code, garnering laughs from the fans, many of whom were clad in royal blue tee shirts bearing his name.
Utah State, however, was quick to remind the fans at Lavell Edwards Stadium that it wasn’t 1984. Despite a quick touchdown to start the second half, BYU fans would spend the rest of the game wishing that the Punky QB had one more year of eligibility left. The Cougars got a good drive going but a ball from backup quarterback, Christian Stewart, slipped through Jordan Leslie’s hands. This resulted in a red zone turnover for BYU. Later, the Cougars looked to have good momentum but were only able to convert a field goal. That small amount of momentum for BYU was short lived, as Utah State picked up where they left off in the first half. Hunter Sharp torched the BYU secondary for a 56 yard gain. Shortly after that, Nick Vigil powered into the end zone to extend the Aggie lead to 35-17. To make matters worse for the Cougars, Christian Stewart threw two more interceptions on promising BYU drives. BYU’s misfortune continued after recovering an onsides kick, only to have it called back by an offsides penalty. The rest of the game continued pretty much like that for the Cougars, who couldn’t seem to find a rhythm against a Utah State team that was determined to break a losing streak in Provo that dated back to 1978. Hunter Sharp and Davonte Robinson were outstanding for the Aggies. Robinson finished with 98 yards and 2 TD’s, while Sharp finished with 173 yards and 1 touchdown. The Wagon Wheel will go back to Logan after spending the last couple of years in Provo. The Aggies look to continue their winning ways as they open conference play against Air Force next Saturday. BYU looks to rebound against UCF on a quick turnaround for next Thursday.
This is a good win for Utah State, who has had its share of disappointments and setbacks lately. With a win against BYU in their pocket, the Aggies have momentum going into conference play. The Mountain West is wide open this year, and USU has shown that they can move the ball very well. Their defense was also solid for the most part. Utah State, however, needs to improve play in the secondary. It seemed like BYU receivers were routinely wide-open down the field. A team with an accurate quarterback and quick receivers could cause problems for USU, but overall Aggie fans should be encouraged by what they saw from their team tonight going into conference play.
As for BYU, this loss is indescribably difficult. Despite only being down by a touchdown at the time of Hill’s injury, the collective feeling in the crowd was that the season had ended in that moment. It is going to be tough for this team to regroup after such a devastating blow. With the Heisman hype and talk of an undefeated season now in the past, it will be interesting to see how the Cougars respond. Thursday’s game against UCF has been the one BYU fans have had circled on their schedule as the stumbling block on the path to an undefeated season. With that dream out of the way, their performance against the Knights will tell what the character of this BYU team truly is.
by Daniel Cutler