Rockets struggle to score a touchdown against top-15 group.
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Boise, Idaho • Gary Andersen was satisfied after Utah State's 41-15 Potato Bowl win over Toledo, particularly with the side of the football he's championed for years: the defense.
"The effort tonight was just like the effort all season," he said. "These kids did a tremendous job of wrapping their arms around the schemes and playing hard."
Nationally ranked among the top 15 defenses in five categories, the Aggies measured up to their averages on this night in scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense.
The Rockets ended up mostly stoned, especially on big plays, such as a key interception deep in USU territory late in the third quarter and on a fourth-and-short in the fourth. Ultimately, the Aggie defense yielded 142 rushing yards and 315 total yards, and it held Toledo's high-scoring offense to just three field goals.
The touchdown scored by the Rockets came on an 87-yard kickoff return late in the game.
"Their ability to communicate is impressive," Andersen said. "... They get in and out of things. I don't know how many times tonight you saw them changing calls, moving pieces to the puzzle, changing multiple coverages, multiple defenses. They're smart young men. They play hard, their expectation to be great is exactly that.
"They're physical. They play the game the right way. We don't even have to grade effort anymore on the defensive side of the ball."
Toledo coach Matt Campbell also complimented USU's defense.
"They do a nice job," he said. "They don't give up the big play. ... That's the thing that stood out tonight. That's a well-coached football team."
Utah State's defense
Statistical averages National rank
Points 15.4 Eighth
Rushing defense 111.4 yards per game 12th
Total defense 322.7 yards 15th
Utah State's defensive statistics against Toledo: 15 points, 142 rushing yards, 315 total yards