Aggies' shot at history comes up short in 33-24 loss to Boise State

Boise State wide receiver Akilian Butler (81) is run out of bounds by Utah State cornerback Cameron Haney (6) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. (Drew Nash/The Times-News via AP)

Boise, Idaho • From the opening snap, the Utah State Aggies looked like they had all season long: a lean, mean scoring machine.

But almost as quickly as it started, Utah State’s mojo fell by the wayside. Overthrown passes. Short gains on runs. Inconsistent defense. It was the bad time for the Aggies to have a bad night.

Utah State’s historic run came to close Saturday with a 33-24 loss to the Boise State Broncos at jam-packed Albertsons Stadium. The Broncos will host Fresno State on Dec. 1 for the Mountain West title, while the Aggies will wait for a bowl game selection.

That’s a big deal for USU, which was ranked 14th nationally going into the game, but it felt like small consolation late Saturday.

“There’s a lot of hurt. There’s a lot of heartache,” Aggie coach Matt Wells said. “I think that’s very reflective of the investment that our kids had put in since January.”

With the win, the Broncos finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, and broke Utah State’s 10-game streak in the process.

After the quick first touchdown from the Aggies, the Broncos slowly took control of the game. They defended better, they made bigger plays, they even punted better.

Boise State took a 10-7 lead with a 23-yard field goal by Haden Hoggarth. Not long after, not even a big penalty slowed Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien, who completed a 30-yard pass to John Bates that put the Boise at the 3-yard line.

An illegal substitution penalty by the Aggies put the ball at the 1, and Alexander Mattison subsequently ran in his second touchdown for a 17-7 lead with 10:09 left in the first half.

As has been customary this season, the Aggies responded in swift fashion. With quarterback Jordan Love’s five completions, Utah State cut the deficit. Love culminated a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 12-yard pass to Ron’quavion Tarver that cut BSU’s lead to 17-14 with 7:34 left in the half.

Boise State nearly scored again late in the first half, but Sean Modster dropped Rypien’s pass in the end zone. Hoggarth’s 33-yard field goal missed wide left with 27 seconds remaining in the half.

Utah State made a crucial stop on 4th-and-1 midway through the third quarter, but immediately gave up the ball when the Broncos forced a three-and-out. Rypien threw a 44-yard pass to C.T. Thomas for a first down, but the Broncos could only muster a 27-yard field goal after that for a 20-14 lead with 7:09 remaining left in the quarter.

Utah State started the fourth quarter with a made field goal from 45 yards, cutting Boise State’s lead to 20-17.

Boise State took almost half the fourth-quarter clock the next time it scored. Fourteen plays and 75 yards later, Rypien’s 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Garrett Collingham gave the Broncos a 26-17 lead with 7:23 remaining in the game.

USU junior running back Gerold Bright said the offense didn’t have its best game.

“I feel like as playmakers, we hold each other to a standard to play great and win the one-on-one battles at every opportunity we can,” Bright said. “We fell short of that, which reflects the way we played. We didn’t play terrible, but we have high expectations and we would never lower them for anything.”

The Aggies and Broncos had been on a collision course for the division title the entire season, particularly when USU went undefeated in its first few conference games. BSU, the Mountain West’s premier program year in and year out, dodged some close calls along the way to set up Saturday’s showdown.

The Aggies came into Saturday’s game riding a 10-game winning streak. Their only other loss was in the first game of the season back in late August, droppin a heat-breaker at Michigan State. The Broncos came in with a six-game streak of their own.