An opportunistic Aggie defense made sure a historic season would get even better.
Will Davis returned a second-quarter interception 59 yards for a touchdown and No. 25 Utah State turned three opening-half Idaho turnovers into a trio of TDs, as the Aggies capped off a perfect Western Athletic Conference campaign with a 45-9 victory over the Vandals on a picture perfect Saturday afternoon at Romney Stadium.
USU’s sixth-straight victory was also its school-record 10th win of the season. The Aggies (10-2, 6-0) also captured their first outright conference championship since 1936 — only their third outright title in program history — and went undefeated at home for the first time since 1982.
The Aggies, who have won 11 straight WAC games, also honored their 19 seniors in style.
After the game, USU was awarded the WAC trophy and an official announcement was made informing the Aggie faithful their team had accepted a bid to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which will be contested Dec. 15 against a Mid-American Conference team in Boise.
It’s only the third time in school history USU — which lost to Ohio 24-23 in the Potato Bowl last year — has garnered invitations to back-to-back bowl games. The Aggies went to the 1946 Raisin Bowl and 1947 Grape Bowl, and 1960 Sun Bowl and 1961 Gotham Bowl.
USU outscored Idaho 14-0 in the first quarter and still have yet to allow an opening-quarter touchdown this season. The Aggies have outscored the opposition by a combined 131-6 margin in the first quarter this season.
The Aggies scored their first touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Chuckie Keeton to Kerwynn Williams on a third-and-18 play. Linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu gave USU the ball deep in Idaho territory when he intercepted a Taylor Davis pass and returned in 50 yards.
Logan High product B.J. Larsen helped set up the Aggies’ second TD. Larsen, who had a 16-yard sack later in the game, picked off a Davis screen pass and returned it to the Idaho 23. After picking up two first downs on Vandal penalties, Keeton scored from 1 yard out on third and goal.
Davis gave the Aggies a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter when he stepped in front of a Idaho wide receiver and went untouched 59 yards to paydirt. It was Davis’ fifth straight game with an interception.
Idaho’s much maligned defense actually played very well in the opening half, limiting USU to just 90 total yards. The Vandals (1-11, 1-5) had 142 yards of offense in the first two quarters, but the visitors trailed 21-6 at halftime.
After a 52-yard field goal by stellar kicker Trey Farquhar, his third of the game, trimmed Idaho’s deficit to 21-9 at the 9:27 mark of the third quarter, USU immediately answered back. A big punt return by Chuck Jacobs gave the Aggies the ball at their own 46. One play later, Williams scampered 51 yards to the Idaho 3. Kellen Bartlett then hauled in a 3-yard TD pass from Keeton.
The Aggies then proceeded to seal the victory in the fourth quarter with a 45-yard field goal by Nick Diaz, a 14-yard TD run by Williams and a 6-yard scoring run by Joe Hill.