Utah State vs. North Texas score: Aggies tie school record for wins with skeleton coaching staff
Utah State blew out North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl
Utah State didn't have its head coach or many staff members who are on their way to join Matt Wells at Texas Tech, but it showed up as the more prepared team and blew out North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl with a 52-13 victory.
The Aggies won 11 games for the second time in school history, tying the school record that was set by then-former coach Gary Andersen, who recently accepted the job to replace Wells for his second stint at Utah State. Andersen spoke to the team this week but chose to keep a low profile for the bowl game (remaining at home), but the bowl win brought some symmetry as the last 11-win season came in Andersen's last year with Utah State on the first run.
Interim head coach Frank Maile gets the official credit for the win, but praise is deserved for the players on this roster that chose to bring their best to a bowl game without their head coach on the sideline.
Jordan Love threw for 359 yards and four touchdowns with another touchdown on the ground while Gerold Bright ran for 103 yards and two scores in the win. A North Texas offense that ranked among the best in the country in passing continued to be hamstrung by its mistakes, and four total interceptions limited what the Mean Green were able to present in terms of a threat to Utah State's significant first half lead.
Mason Fine's hamstring injury in the first half was a game-changing moment, taking away the back-to-back Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year from the contest for North Texas. He was knocked out of the game and suddenly the Mean Green could not click offensively, keeping Fine short of 4,000 passing yards on the season (an assumption based on his per-game averages during the season) and the team from being able to keep up in a shootout.
Here are three things to know about the game and what it means moving forward:
1. North Texas is going to return to action in 2019 with a championship mentality. Seth Littrell walked alway from conversations with Kansas State to take over Bill Snyder, and Fine will return to action as the FBS active leader for career passing yards at the start of the 2019 season. Getting both Littrell and Fine back for 2019 is going to give North Texas a season with Conference USA championship hopes, with Fine having the opportunity to write his name into FBS lore in some of the career passing categories. This loss stings for North Texas fans happy about the breakthrough season, but knowing that both coach and quarterback are returning eases some of the sadness from this blowout loss.
2. Gary Andersen has reason to believe the success will continue. Love is just a sophomore and this active team brings back 13 starters from a group that was among the winningest teams in college football this season. Love only played in six fourth quarters this season because of the blowout wins and he again finished the game on the sideline watching backups clean up their 11th win. The biggest key for Andersen and Utah State's next coaching staff will be replenishing the veteran-laden offensive line that played at such a high level through the year.
3. Utah State provided an example for what a player-led team can do in the postseason. Maile told the ESPN broadcast team before the game that his had to be a player-led effort in the bowl game, choosing to bring their own level of preparation as the program undergoes a change in leadership following Wells' departure to Texas Tech. Maile has been offered a spot on the Utah State staff by Andersen, but he has not yet decided if he wants to stay in Logan for the time being. If he does, he gets some credit for the way he provided leadership during a tough spot for the team, leading this group to historic heights in the midst of a coaching change.
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