Utah State took home the Wagon Wheel in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1973-74 after a 45-20 victory over BYU on Oct. 5.
The Cougars had no answer for dynamic Aggie playmakers in running back Darwin Thompson and quarterback Jordan Love.
BYU’s run game had just 39 total yards as a team and 2.4 yards per carry. The Aggies, on the other hand, ran for 223 yards as a team.
Playing from behind, BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum was forced to throw 45 times, far more than his average of 27 passes per game through the first five weeks. This was also due to a lack of run support from the Cougars’ offense.
The contest started with Aggie linebacker Tipa Galeai’s interception on fourth down midway through the first quarter. Galeai would return the pick for a 56-yard touchdown.
“Obviously as a team, (a pick-six) is frustrating to see,” said senior BYU linebacker Zayne Anderson. “We need to have the mindset that we’re going to get one too. I don’t feel like we had that. I feel like we lost energy. As a team, we need to keep that energy and mindset.”
The Aggies took a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and led by as many as 32 points during the game. Four BYU turnovers on the night would become 24 points for the Aggies.
BYU struggled on third down opportunities, converting just one of nine chances.
“We missed a lot of tackles,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “That’s not going to help you when you’re missing tackles in your defensive scheme. We didn’t minimize gains. We didn’t tackle them consistently, and it allowed drives to keep going.”
Senior linebackers Sione Takitaki and Anderson led the Cougars with nine and eight total tackles, respectively, but acknowledged the need for improvement.
“We need to tackle better,” Takitaki said. “Sometimes we let things slip and that comes with preparation and fundamentals.”
Love threw for four touchdowns and ran another. The Aggie run-pass option scheme only allowed Love to pass for 165 yards, but he was efficient with an 18 for 28 clip.
Mangum finished the night 27 for 46 with two touchdowns, an interception and a season-high 270 passing yards.
Junior receiver Talon Shumway recorded a career-high 110 yards on five catches, with sophomore tight end Matt Bushman grabbing four passes for 78 yards and senior receiver Dylan Collie recording his first touchdown as a Cougar.
Freshman backup quarterback Zach Wilson entered the game late in the fourth quarter, leading a scoring drive ending with an 18-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Gunner Romney. This would mark the first collegiate touchdowns for each of the young prospects. Wilson also finished as BYU’s leading rusher with a 26-yard scramble.
BYU’s record sat at 3-1 and No. 20 less than two weeks ago before dropping two straight contests by a combined score of 80-27.
“You love going out and playing with your brothers and then you hurt together after,” Shumway said of losing as a team. “There’s nobody that I’d rather be out there with. We’re all there for each other, that’s why we play.”
The Cougars look to regain their confidence on Oct. 13 against Hawaii for homecoming week to kick off the second half of the season.
“Last week wasn’t us and this week wasn’t us,” Anderson said. “Those first three games we built our identity as a tough, smart team and I feel like we’re falling away from that. We just need to gather together and get back to what we do.”