Utah State football notes: Special teams, penalties hurt in loss
Los Angeles • Aggies fans can remember the "money game" losses fairly readily by the special teams mistakes that cost their team.
Auburn's onside kick recovery. The missed field goal at Wisconsin.
At USC, it might be Jaron Bentrude's 12-yard punt.
Although the Aggies had plenty of chances to make up for the mistake, the shanked kick right before the end of the third quarter led directly to USC's game-winning field goal. Setting up shop at the Utah State 24, the USC offense didn't have far to go.
The Aggies defense pulled off a heroic stop to keep the Trojans from storming the end zone on first and goal at their own 8. But one 25-yard field goal later, Utah State was again playing from behind. This time, they couldn't tie it up.
"I wish we had punted a bit better in some of those situations," Matt Wells said. "We were going against a little wind, it was kind of swirling a bit down there. But you can't ever let points escape you in a close game."
But "the punt" wasn't the only special teams play when Utah State stumbled. The Aggies missed a 37-yard field-goal attempt on their second drive, as Nick Diaz's kick struck the right upright. In the fourth quarter, looking for a jolt of energy, Utah State called a fake punt that ended in an incomplete pass from D.J. Tialavea.
In the game, Bentrude only averaged 1 yard less than USC punter KrisAlbarado. But Bentrude happened to be punting from his own 7-, 31-, 36-, 41-, 20-, 14-, 12- and 7-yard line.
Penalties fluster Ags
USC finished 3 yards short of Utah State's total offense but got a boost from a few yellow flags that dogged the Aggies in the first half.
Pass interference on Maurice Alexander and Nevin Lawson helped give the Trojans extra shots and a shorter field for their first touchdown, a 1-yard dive by Tre Madden. It's a continuation of a troubling trend that started against Utah: The secondary has given up some big plays on flags this year.
Penalties hurt Utah State on the offensive side too, although the Aggies weren't very convinced about all of them. After the game, Travis Reynolds took issue with a perplexing call when a big Jojo Natson catch was nullified by an ineligible receiver call.
"That was a miscommunication right there because Jojo was clearly off the ball, and me and [Travis] Van Leeuwen were on the ball, and that would make Jojo eligible," Reynolds said. "As far as the illegal procedures and false start, that was just dumb penalties by us."