Utah State safety Ajani Carter (12) returns an interception against San Jose State during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, San Jose, Calif. Utah State won 48-17. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SAN JOSE, Calif.—Once Utah State football got rolling, it didn’t stop. Despite trailing 14-0 early in the second quarter, the Aggie football team left California with a 48-17 win over San José State Saturday night.
Head coach Blake Anderson said that SJSU made some plays that rattled his team early, but once the team settled in the defense and the offense had the best collective game of the season. That performance put USU at 8-2 overall, 5-1 in conference and keeps USU in the driver’s seat for a berth in the Mountain West championship game
“Obviously they can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said of his players. “They know what we’re playing for. I think that has energized these guys to just empty the tank, and they are doing that.”
Quarterback Logan Bonner completed 21 of 35 passes for four touchdowns, 263 yards and an interception, becoming the first quarterback in Aggie football history to throw for at least four touchdowns in three-straight games.
Deven Thompkins caught six passes for 127 yards, which was enough to keep his spot as the nation’s leading receiver in overall yards.
The Aggie defense held San José State to 12 rushing yards and quarterback Nate Starkel to just 138 yards passing with no touchdowns. Linebacker Ajani Carter, who had both a fumble recovery and an interception during the game, said there has been an added emphasis to stopping the run in the past couple of weeks.
“We said that if a team is going to beat us they are going to beat us throwing the ball,” he said.
Neither team could put points on the scoreboard through almost the entire first quarter, but then the dam seemed to burst, and the points piled on.
The first 14 points went to the Spartans, and they came fast. Bonner’s pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown with 1:10 left in the quarter. Then, on the ensuing Aggie possession, Bonner took a hit and fumbled the ball. San José recovered and quickly found the endzone, taking a two-touchdown lead with 14:26 left in the second quarter.
Bonner bounced back, and in a big way, connecting on a deep pass to Thompkins on his first play back on the field. The 43-yard catch led to a two-yard Savon Scarver touchdown reception shortly after.
“These guys never panic,” Bonner said. “This team never panics and this team plays for everybody on the team. That’s what makes it special.”
It was the Aggie defense’s turn next. Carter knocked the ball out of Starkel’s hands and recovered it on San José’s own 3-yard line. Bonner wasted no time turning it into points, tying the game on a pass to Derek Wright two plays later.
“That’s kind of all he does,” Anderson said of Wright. “He just comes up with the big play when you need it.”
The Aggies capitalized on a Spartan three-and-out on its next possession, picking up USU’s third touchdown in less than seven minutes of gametime with an Elelyon Noa three-yard touchdown run.
Utah State scored once more in the second quarter. The offense took the field with 4:37 left in the half and used every remaining second, moving the ball 53 yards to set up a 32-yard Connor Coles field goal. USU led 24-14 at half.
San José State used a 43-yard field goal to cut USU’s lead to 24-17 to start the third, but it was Utah State that scored the game’s final 24 points.
The first came after another big Thompkins catch. His 53-yard grab set up Brandon Bowling’s five-yard touchdown reception. Wright scored his second touchdown of the night on a 41-yard catch early in the fourth. Coles hit his second field goal, a 40-yarder, on the next Aggie possession. Calvin Tyler Jr. scored the last touchdown of the game on a six-yard run, which came after Carter’s interception put the ball in the offense’s hands eight yards from the endzone.
Utah State will return home to host Wyoming (5-5, 1-5) for Senior Night on Saturday, November 20 at 6 p.m.