Utah State made an emphatic statement in a 35-7 win over Wyoming on Saturday afternoon. Despite suffering a multitude of injuries, the Aggies are one win away from a Mountain West championship. And unlike their next opponent, Fresno State, they wouldn't be undone by an underdog.
The Aggies rolled in their last game of the year at Romney Stadium, suppressing the Cowboys with another suffocating defensive performance while carving them up with runs, short passes and even special-teams returns. The 22 seniors Utah State sent off won their 30th game in the last four years, earned the top spot in the Mountain Division and got a berth in next week's conference title game against the Bulldogs.
Running back Joey DeMartino, who went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the game, couldn't conceal his excitement as he reflected on his team once blackened and bruised by adversity now playing for a championship.
"We deserve everything we've got this year with all the injuries we had," he said. "The fact that we're in the middle of this process right now means everything. It shows how much our team cares and put in the work this year. Just to see it start to pay off right now feels great."
The inaugural Bridger's Battle was dominated by the Aggies' defenders, who held prolific quarterback Brett Smith to only 156 total yards. Utah State would've pitched its second straight shutout if not for one fourth-quarter 60-yard bomb over the secondary.
Other than the one breakdown, the Aggies were all but perfect. Wyoming managed only 28 yards rushing on 29 carries, running into a wall of Utah State linemen and linebackers. The pass coverage was as good as ever for the Aggies, as five defenders broke up passes, and Nick Vigil led the rush with 3.5 sacks.
"Bottom line: The best defense in the Mountain West conference," Wells said. "They proved it again and again and again today. Defense wins championships everybody says that this time of year."
The offense started slow, but was boosted by big plays both on defense and special teams. Linebacker Jake Doughty's first pick of the year set up the Aggies' first 27-yard touchdown drive. The offense didn't even need to take the field after Jojo Natson's wild, pinballing 64-yard punt return in the second quarter. And Utah State consistently got short fields with Jaron Bentrude pinning the Cowboys inside their own 20 five times.
Eventually, the Aggies attack was able to help itself. DeMartino had 112 yards and a score on the ground that put Utah State up 21-0 at halftime. Darrel Garretson, after throwing for Utah State's first touchdown of the day, had an efficient 20-for-29 day with 156 yards and two more scoring passes.
O Aggies hold No. 13 offense in nation to 190 yards.
• Darell Garretson throws three touchdown passes.