Utah State football: Freshman QB, stifling D lead big Aggies win
Logan • There was one second-half flicker of hope for Hawaii. Kyler Fackrell snuffed it out.
The sophomore linebacker wrapped his mitts around a pass headed for the end zone, and proceeded to stampede 99 yards to the end zone at the other end. Utah State had laid down its back-breaker, the game-sealing move that all but finished off the visiting Rainbow Warriors.
"I thought that was checkmate," coach Matt Wells said, his head high after his team's second big win in as many games.
The Aggies (5-4, 4-1) moved masterfully in a 47-10 blowout of winless Hawaii (0-8, 0-6), looking more and more like the Mountain West contender they were hyped to be before injuries hijacked their season.
Every piece was at their disposal: A defense that stiffened in the second half, a run game that kept the Rainbow Warriors off-balance, and a passing game that shined for the first time since the program lost star quarterback Chuckie Keeton. A Hawaii team that had shown a penchant for second half rallies this year had no answer for a suffocating performance from Utah State.
Although Utah State's Mountain West championship hopes are in the hands of Boise State, the Aggies showed Saturday that they're not out of it yet - far from it.
"Ultimately, I think we're not satisfied just going to bowl games," Fackrell said. "We want conference championships, we want undefeated seasons as much as we can. We're still fighting for a conference championship."
The aerial assault was the biggest surprise for Utah State, as Darell Garretson put up a freshman-record 370 yards coupled with three touchdowns. Behind an offensive line that gave him plenty of room to breathe, Garretson showcased his arm early and often.
Although the Aggies struggled at times to score touchdowns in the red zone they settled for field goals twice the freshman had a few long touchdown passes to his credit, including a 30-yard strike to Travis Reynolds that dropped right in his breadbasket. There was also the 44-yard play to his roommate, fellow freshman Wyatt Houston, that ended up being the final score of the game.
Garretson deferred the credit, saying it was "really, really, really easy" working with his receivers and running backs. Joey DeMartino finished with 104 rushing yards and a score, while Reynolds was Garretson's favorite target with 152 yards on eight catches.
But Wells said the rookie's growth has helped move the offense along. His teammates were equally impressed.
"We have a freshman who came in here and put on his big-boy pants," Reynolds said. "He did a great job today."
Utah State quickly surged ahead to lead in the first half, with the offense finding ways to move downfield and complete third-down conversions. A Garretson touchdown toss and a scoring run by DeMartino were sprinked in with a strong performance by the kicking game: Nick Diaz was 3 for 3 while Jake Thompson booted a 52-yarder just before halftime.
Hawaii has played its last four games close to the wire with second-half surges, but the Aggies held the Rainbow Warriors quiet after they scored a touchdown on their first drive out of the break. Along with Fackrell's pick-six, Utah State had two other interceptions, by Brian Suite and Frankie Sutera in the first half.
For the game, Hawaii managed only 319 yards, going 6 for 18 on third downs and failing to convert on two fourth-down tries. A late quarterback switch from Sean Schroeder to Taylor Graham accomplished little.
O QB Darell Garretson throws for a USU freshman-record 370 yards.
• The Aggies get three picks, including one returned for a TD by Kyler Fackrell