LOGAN—Utah State football won by its largest margin in conference play this season Saturday afternoon, beating Hawaii 51-31 to stay at first place in the Mountain Division standings. The Aggies jumped out to a quick lead, scoring on its first three possessions and kept a lead through the remainder of the game.
Aggie head coach Blake Anderson said his team was fortunate to get as far ahead as they did, especially seeing how Hawaii had played against other teams in the conference.
“I told the guys all week it was going to come down to the last play of the game,” he said. “I was surprised that it didn’t.”
The win put USU at 6-2 overall and 4-1 in conference. The sixth win also means that the team is bowl eligible. The Aggies last went to a bowl game in 2019, but last won a bowl game in 2018.
“I never doubted we would be bowl eligible,” Anderson said. “I really didn’t. Watching this team work in the offseason and how they have progressed through fall camp, I didn’t know if it was going to be pretty or ugly, but I knew we would find a way.”
Aggie quarterback Logan Bonner completed 21-of-30 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Deven Thompkins was on the receiving end of 176 of those yards and became the first Aggie to hit the 1,000 yard receiving mark in a season since Kevin Curtis, who set the USU record with 1,531 in 2001.
“He plays bigger than he is,” Bonner said of his 5-foot-8 receiver. “That’s what makes him so special.”
Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro completed 23-of-36 passes for three touchdowns and an interception, but the Warriors were only able to manage 12 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Anderson said he was impressed that his defense was able to do that against a rushing attack like Hawaii’s.
“That’s just something that not anybody has had a whole lot of success with,” he said.
The Aggies strong start came in part due to Elelyon Noa, who ran six times for 52 yards during the offense’s seven-play opening drive, including the three yard run to give USU the 7-0 lead. Hawaii responded by moving the ball to the Aggie 1-yard line, but on third-and-goal, Cordeiro’s pass was tipped by Aggie defensive end Byron Vaughns and intercepted by linebacker Cash Gilliam.
Noa carried the ball a few times on the next drive, then Bonner went deep, connecting with wide receiver Justin McGriff on a 45-yard touchdown. The Aggies finished the opening quarter with a 14-0 lead.
The lead continued to grow in the second behind a 57-yard drive and a 40-yard Connor Coles field goal, but Hawaii fired back. The Rainbow Warriors first got on the board with a 49-yard field goal of their own, then scored a touchdown on a seven-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 29-yard Cordeiro pass to running back Dedrick Parson.
With the lead down to seven points and just 2:29 left in the half, Bonner took the field, but left after getting hurt four plays into the drive. He was replaced by backup quarterback Andrew Peasley, who ran eight yards for a first down, then found Thompkins on a 45-yard pass into the redzone. Coles hit the 22-yard field goal shortly after to give USU a 20-10 advantage at the half.
Bonner returned to start the second half and piled on the points, completing nine of eleven pass attempts and three touchdowns through three possessions. The first went 46 yards to Derek Wright, the next was a 21-yarder to tight end Carson Terrell and the third was for 14 yards to wide receiver Brandon Bowling. Meanwhile the Aggie defense held Hawaii scoreless, increasing the lead to 41-10.
Bonner said there was no offensive halftime adjustment, just said the offense did its job.
“We, overall, executed really well coming out of halftime,” he said.
Hawaii broke out of its scoring drought, responding to USU’s 21 unanswered points with 15 of their own. The first came off an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive. Then, after recovering a USU fumble, scored another touchdown and a two-point conversion to cut the Aggie lead to 41-25 at the end of third.
Utah State took nearly five minutes off the clock with its next drive and added another field goal from Coles. Hawaii’s offense was unable to respond and turned the ball over on downs, but it’s defense made up for it when Peasley’s pitch to the running back missed its target. Hawaii scooped the loose ball and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed.
“We did some silly things that made it a lot more interesting than it should have been,” Anderson said. “But at the same time we did some big things, too. To respond when we needed to.”
One of those “big things” came on the next play. With 8:20 left and trailing by 13, the Warriors attempted an onside kick. Not only did Hawaii fail to get to the ball, but Bowling returned it for a touchdown.
“That’s a heads-up play from a veteran player,” Anderson said. “It allowed us to have a little more room.”
USU led 51-31, which held through the final minutes of the game. USU will take a break from conference play and go on the road to Las Cruces, New Mexico to play a game against New Mexico State. Kickoff is Saturday Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.