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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Spuddy Buddy and Big Blue embrace before the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Bronco Stadium Saturday December 15, 2012.
Sweet potato: USU football team runs away late in Potato Bowl victory

With fourth-quarter offensive outburst, Aggies put the butter on their best-ever season.

First Published Dec 15 2012 08:22 pm • Last Updated Apr 08 2013 11:33 pm

Boise, Idaho • One by one, the Utah State players approached a stunned and silent Kerwynn Williams on the Aggie sideline, each offering a few words of support, making sure he knew that there were still seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Williams — USU’s senior running back — had just lost a fumble, allowing Toledo to kick a field goal and pull within striking distance of the Aggies in Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He listened to his teammates and took heed. He readied himself for his second chance.

At a glance

Storylines Saving their best for last

Utah State scores four TDs in the fourth quarter.

» The Aggies move to 11-2 on the season.

» USU wins its first bowl game since 1993.

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He took advantage.

In what was a blitzkrieg offensively down the stretch, Williams scored three touchdowns in the next four minutes, spearheading No. 18 Utah State’s 41-15 demolition of the Rockets before 29,243 at Bronco Stadium. With Williams running for 198 yards in the final quarter alone, he went from potential goat to game MVP in precious little time.

"It was something I was just grateful for," Williams said. "I was shocked that I fumbled, but I eventually realized that I would have more opportunities to contribute. My teammates and my offensive line helped me out a lot tonight. I just wanted to go out and run harder."

By the end, Utah State finished with 28 fourth-quarter points, turning a tense game over the first three periods into a laugher. With each score, the Aggies became more loose, the heavily pro-Utah State crowd more festive. In the final minutes, the fans were chanting Gary Andersen’s name, seniors were being pulled to thunderous cheers and USU had put a stamp on its best season in school history.

Utah State won an 11th game for the first time ever on Saturday. The Aggies will finish the year ranked nationally for the first time since 1961. The program won a bowl game for the first time since 1993. USU finishes the season with seven consecutive wins, and the Aggies stand a good chance to begin 2013 with a national ranking as well.

"This group of kids have been special," Andersen said. "Last January they set their goals, and they accomplished every goal they set for themselves. This is the best season in the history of Utah State football, and it’s going to take a lot to beat what these kids have accomplished."

For three quarters, it looked as if Utah State would fall victim to an embarrassing defeat. Playing a Toledo team missing its three best players for the majority of the game, the Aggies couldn’t get much going offensively to create separation.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton scored the first touchdown on a 62-yard read-option run. USU scraped together a last-minute drive at the end of the half to score a field goal. The rest of the first two quarters, however, consisted of sluggish football.

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"We told the guys at halftime that we needed to run the ball effectively, and that’s what we weren’t doing," Andersen said. "We needed to give the ball to Kerwynn and let him run between the tackles. Once we did that, we kind of wore them down a little."

What saved Utah State was its defense, which didn’t allow a touchdown. And when the offense finally woke up, the game became a rout.

Williams, in his final collegiate game, ran for 235 yards and those three scores on just 18 attempts. That’s 13.1 yards per carry, for the math geeks at home. He also became the WAC career leader in all-purpose yardage.

Keeton went 21 for 31 through the air for 229 yards. He gained another 92 yards in the ground, breaking the school single-season record for completions and passing yards. Bojay Filimoeatu came up with 11 tackles and a sack.

"I just thought we did this as a team," Filimoeatu said. "We defended well, we played great offensively. This is a great feeling, and it was a special season that we won’t ever forget."

tjones@sltrib.comTwitter: @tjonessltrib

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