Kent State outscores Utah State 51-41 in Frisco Bowl

Utah State coach Gary Anderson during the first half of the team's Frisco Bowl NCAA college football game against Kent State on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, in Frisco, Texas. Kent State won 51-41. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Frisco, Texas • “We Are The Champions” by Queen played loudly as Utah State Aggies coach Gary Andersen and two of his players answered questions about what went wrong Friday night. The juxtaposition was striking considering the Aggies have been the frequent bowl game participant in recent years and their opponents, the Kent State Golden Flashes, had never won one in their history.

But with Utah State keyed in on winning the Frisco Bowl to make up for not achieving its preseason goal of a Mountain West Conference championship, it was Kent State that ended its season the way it wanted.

The Aggies kept the game close for 3 1/2 quarters, but couldn’t quite get it done down the stretch as they lost 51-41 to the Golden Flashes at Toyota Stadium.

Utah State has lost three of its past four bowl games. The only win in that span was last season in the New Mexico Bowl against North Texas.

The game was within a touchdown throughout, mainly because USU kept fighting back from deficits. The Aggies trailed 17-7, 26-17 and 34-27 only to come back and tie the score each time. They took a one-point lead on a field goal from Dominik Eberle late in the third quarter, marking just the second advantage of the game for Utah State.

But Kent State made more plays down the stretch, sophomore wide receiver Deven Thompkins said.

“We played hard the entire game, they just finished,” said Thompkins, who had 57 yards on just one carry that ended in a touchdown. “That’s what we talk about every day. We talk about finishing, winning the fourth quarter. We just didn’t do that.”

For the 16 Aggies who played their final game in a Utah State uniform, the Frisco Bowl was a chance to end their careers on a high note, something many of them said recently is important to them. Andersen has also expressed that sentiment.

“We’ve had a great group of seniors,” Andersen said. “They battled their tails off this year to get into this position. We’ve had some disappointing losses, we’ve had some tremendous victories. They’re a great group of kids. … I wish them all the best as they move forward in the next adventures in their lives. Wish we could’ve got this one for them but we didn’t.”

Junior quarterback Jordan Love, who will declare for the NFL draft, finished his USU career with 317 yards and three touchdowns on 30-of-39 passing. Senior running back Gerold Bright led the charge in the run game for the Aggies with 98 yards on 21 carries.

Senior wide receiver Saosi Mariner tallied 113 receiving yards on seven catches.

Defense was in short supply for both teams Friday as the game saw a combined 92 points on the board. But it was a big problem for the Aggies, who could not get stops when they needed them.

And it was Golden Flashes quarterback Dustin Crum that gave USU the most problems. Of the team’s 550 yards of total offense, Crum accounted for 436 of them. He passed for 289 yards and rushed for 147.

Crum capped his play and the game with a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 with just over a minute remaining in the game. He was named Offensive MVP of the game.

“He made plays,” junior safety Troy Lefeged said of Crum. “We didn’t capitalize on the plays we should have made. He capitalized more than us.”

Andersen said the team’s defense did not play well Friday, and cited the amount of points the Aggies conceded.

“A swarming, aggressive defense that just gets what you want to be able to get done, you have to look to get a turnover every 30 snaps. That’s the goal,” Andersen said. “You have to have tackles behind the line of scrimmage. You can’t just sit there and just not change the game in your favor with those big plays.”

Utah State forced only one turnover and committed three.