Junior placekicker Nick Diaz booted a career-high four field goals including a season-long 45-yarder in the second quarter. It was the first time a USU placekicker had four field goals in a game since 1999.
With Friday’s win, Utah State improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in Mountain West Conference action, beating a former Western Athletic Conference opponent in SJSU, as the two left the WAC for the MW this summer. The Spartans slid to 1-3 overall and the Aggies’ spoiled their MW opener. Friday was USU’s fifth-straight win over SJSU in the series, the longest winning streak by USU and cutting the Spartans lead to 20-15-1. The 28-point margin in score was the Aggies’ largest in the series, bettering their 27-point win at 35-8 in 1965 and largest overall in the series since SJSU won 45-10 in 1976.
Utah State’s 520 yards came on 260 through the air by Keeton on 29-of-42 passing with three TD’s. Keeton also rushed for 52 yards on 12 carries with another score, as part of the Aggies’ 253 yards on the ground, their most against an FBS opponent this season. The USU offense has now topped the 500 yards of total offense three times this season and eighth times in its last 11 games.
Senior running back Joey DeMartino rushed 17 times for 120 yards, both new career-highs, while senior wide receiver Travis Reynolds also posted a pair of career-bests with eight catches for 77 yards. Sophomore wide receivers Brandon Swindall and Bruce Natson both added five receptions apiece with Swindall finishing with a team-high and career-high 79 yards in tying his career-high for catches. Natson ended with 34 yards.
The Aggie defense was led by the linebacking duo of junior Zach Vigil and sophomore Kyler Fackrell with 11 tackles apiece. The 11 stops was a new season-high for Fackrell, who also registered his fourth sack of the season and seventh of his career. It was Vigil’s third double-digit tackle outing of the season and eighth of his career. Vigil also recovered his second fumble of the year and his career.
Utah State’s defense entered the game without any interceptions, but left the game with three, as senior safety Maurice Alexander, senior cornerback Nevin Lawson and junior cornerback Jeremy Morris all snared oskies. It was Lawson’s third interception of his career and his second at Spartan Stadium, as his first career pick came in 2010 to seal USU’s 38-34 win in 2010. Alexander and Morris posted their first interceptions of their career.
SJSU was led by David Fales with 25-of-48 passing for 314 yards, but threw three interceptions and was sacked once. Chandler Jones snared seven passes for 115 yards, while Jason Simpson rushed for 48 yards on 15 carries and the Spartans’ lone TD of the night.
USU took the opening kickoff and Keeton guided the charge down the field, resulting in a 3-yard pass to senior tight end D.J. Tialavea and Diaz split the uprights for a 7-0 USU lead less than four minutes into the game. That marked the third time this season that USU has scored on its opening possession and the 10th time in the last two years.
On SJSU’s ensuing possession, the Spartans marched down the field in a 15-play drive resulting in a 31-yard field goal with 8:01 left in the quarter to pull within, 7-3.
The Aggies opened up a 14-3 lead later in the quarter after a 5-yard pass from Keeton to junior tight end Keegan Andersen. USU’s lead grew to 20-3 after a 24 and 45-yard field goal by Diaz. The 45-yarder was a new season-long for Diaz, who wasn’t done on the night.
After SJSU’s Austin Lopez kicked a 26-yard field goal with 5:48 to go in the half, Diaz set a new career-high with his third field goal in the game with a 24-yarder upright split for a 23-6 USU lead.
Lopez tried to cut the gap to 23-9 in the waning seconds of the half, but after the Aggies’ exhausted all three of their timeouts to ice him, and he missed from 42-yards out for his first miss of the season. Lopez entered the attempt making 23 consecutive field goals, the only player in FBS that has made at least his last 20 field goal tries.
USU’s 23-6 halftime lead was the 18th time that the Aggies had the bigger number on the scoreboard at intermission in the last 20 games. USU is now 15-3 when leading at the half.
The Aggies stretched their lead to 30-6 at the 6:12 mark with a 17-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Brandon Swindall for his team-leading fourth TD catch of the season. SJSU countered with a 1-yard rush by Simpson that got just inside the pylon, but the Aggies snuffed out the two-point conversion, leaving the score 30-12 with 3:02 left in the third frame.
Keeton later darted in from 9-yards out and Diaz’s PAT gave USU a 37-12 lead with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Diaz capped the game’s scoring with his fourth field goal of the night, this one from 21-yards out with 5:23 on the clock and the Aggies cruised to the win.
Utah State returns to the friendly confines of Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium, opening up a two-game homestand by hosting in-state rival BYU on Friday, Oct. 4. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. (MT), then host Boise State in a Mountain West showdown on Saturday, Oct. 12, also at 6 p.m.