Albuquerque, N.M. • Just as Utah State's season reached one of its lowest points, the Aggies got a win they needed.
A win with running back Joey DeMartino blowing through huge holes in the trenches. A win with a defense that suffocated a vaunted rushing attack. A win with a quarterback who moved efficiently, effectively, and didn't look much like a freshman.
It felt surprisingly normal for a program that has become used to a higher level success in the past few seasons.
"It felt good getting back to what we usually do," defensive Connor Williams said with a grin.
Utah State (4-4, 3-1) blew through New Mexico (2-5, 0-3) for a 45-10 victory on the road Saturday night, much-needed validation for a program that spent two weeks mired by injuries and big losses at home. Against the Lobos, the Aggies recaptured its identity as a competitor in the conference - and even if it was against one of the Mountain West's cellar-dwellers, it washed them with relief.
"I'm just so proud of these guys, the way they've battled,' coach Matt Wells said. "We changed stuff up on them, we've switched positions on guys. We did a lot of stuff trying to win games. I thought those kids responded well."
For an offense that hadn't moved the ball much since losing Chuckie Keeton to a season-ending injury, the run game unstuck its wheels for a season-high 337 rushing yards.
Running back Joey DeMartino had 144 yards on the ground on only 12 touches, scoring rushing touchdowns on runs of 8, 32, and 38 yards. He was also a big target in the passing game, catching three passes for 41 yards and a score.
Utah State's senior-laden offensive line blew open holes for DeMartino and the Aggies' other backs, controlling the line of scrimmage from start to finish. On one second-quarter drive, it took only two runs by DeMartino to cover 74 yards for a touchdown.
Utah State threw in true freshman Darell Garretson for his first career start, and he did not disappoint. The Aggies' third starter in as many weeks showed efficiency on early drives, finishing with a 15-for-23 night with 144 yards and a score.
He admitted there were some butterflies: "Of course," he said. "But I got over those pretty quick. The guys did a really good job of keeping me calm."
But it wasn't just Utah State's offense slicing up New Mexico for points: Special teams got it done as well. Jojo Natson returned a punt right before halftime for a 65-yard touchdown, the program's first since 2007. Punter Jaron Bentrude also added to the pile-on, running on a fake punt for an untouched 72-yard score that no one saw coming.
Utah State's biggest victory, however, might've been on defense.
No. 2 ranked rushing offense in the nation hit a wall against Utah State's four-man front, an unconventional formation for the Aggies. On the first drive, starting quarterback Clayton Mitchum fumbled away a ball that Connor Williams recovered to set up Utah State's first score, a one-play drive with Joey DeMartino high-stepping into the end zone.
It set the tone for most of the night.
Through three quarters, the Aggies allowed only 58 yards while accumulating a five-touchdown lead. The one time New Mexico got into Utah State's half of the field in those first three quarters, they held them to a field goal.
The dam finally broke in the fourth quarter, when the game was long out of reach. Kasey Carrier, the Lobos' star running back, got through to the end zone on a goal line run. But in all, New Mexico only finished with 298 yards of offense.
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