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Provo • One of the uglier BYU-Utah State football games in recent memory played out late Saturday night with a familiar ending: The Cougars won 28-10, but lost quarterback Taysom Hill, who left early in the fourth quarter with what BYU trainers described as a left elbow injury.
In a cruel twist of fate, it was the third time that Hill has been injured in a game against the Aggies, having suffered a season-ending knee injury against USU in 2012 and a season-ending ankle and ligaments injury in 2014 on one of the last plays of the game.
Coach Kalani Sitake said Hill suffered a hyper-extended elbow, but a scan showed no fracture. He will have an MRI soon.
The Cougars improved to 8-4 with the victory in front of 53,603 fans, while USU fell to 3-9 and failed in its quest to win the Old Wagon Wheel back from BYU after taking it here in 2014.
The Cougars racked up 355 yards of offense and held the Aggies to 200, including just 46 in the second half. It was USU's lowest offensive output of the season.
"Not a perfect game, but I am just happy with the result," Sitake said.
Leading 14-10 at halftime, BYU misfired on its first possession of the second half, killing the promising drive with penalties and a snap that Hill mishandled.
The Cougars took control the next time they got the ball, though, driving 75 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown, a 10-yard reception by Mitchell Juergens, to make it 21-10. An iffy defensive pass interference penalty on 4th-and-4 from the USU 23 kept the drive alive, and Juergens' TD catch came when Hill pinpointed a pass on third-and-goal.
Hill left what was possibly his final college football game having completed 10 of 21 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. He also rushed for 46 yards on 12 carries. Kent Myers was 12 of 23 for 103 yards and ran 12 times for 42 yards for USU.
"I liked the way we played in the second half, particularly on defense," Sitake said.
After linebacker Fred Warner intercepted Myers, the Cougars drove 38 yards for a touchdown to take the 28-10 lead a few minutes into the fourth quarter. It was the seventh-straight third quarter in which BYU has not allowed a point.
"The goal would be to start first halves like we do second halves," Sitake said.
Hill was injured the second play of the fourth quarter after he tried to leap over a Utah State defender for a first down. Tanner Mangum entered the game and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Colby Pearson.
Sitake called it a successful regular season, but wondered what might have been. The Cougars lost their four games by a total of eight points, and won seven of their last eight games after a 1-3 start.
The Aggies struck first in the mistake-filled game, driving into the wind to the BYU 27 on their first possession before settling for a 28-yard field goal by Brock Warren.
The Cougars started slowly on offense again, punting after their first possession and throwing an interception on their second. Former BYU safety Dallin Leavitt picked off Hill in his first game back at LES since leaving after the 2014 season.
Thanks to two defensive pass interference penalties and a 35-yard catch and run by Nick Kurtz, the Cougars finally got on the board early in the second quarter on Jamaal Williams' 2-yard TD plunge. Williams ran for 131 yards on 18 carries in his first game since the Nov. 5 win at Cincinnati.
"Just grateful to be on this team, and to have teammates like I have," Williams said.
BYU took a 14-3 lead on its second defensive touchdown against the Aggies in as many games, as Michael Shelton returned a Damion Hobbs fumble 52 yards for a score. Hobbs had picked up a first down on the 4th-and-1 run out of the Wildcat formation, but Logan Taele stripped the ball just before Hobbs' knee hit the turf.
Warner's third-quarter interception gave the Cougars 29 takeaways this season, a total (27) that led the country entering the weekend.
The Cougars forced USU's third punt of the first half, and got the ball back with 1:37 remaining.
They got greedy, though, and instead of running the ball into the wind, Hill threw a pass that deflected off Kurtz's hands and into the arms of Jalen Davis. The USU defensive back returned it 37 yards to the BYU 3, and Hobbs scored two plays later to send the teams into halftime with BYU leading 14-10.
R BYU holds Utah State to 46 yards in the second half to improve to 8-4.
• BYU quarterback Taysom Hill leaves the game with a left elbow injury early in the fourth quarter.
• BYU defensive back Michael Shelton returns a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown.