This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
LOGAN - Utah State needed to win its Sun Belt Conference opener against Idaho in the worst way.
And that's the way the Aggies won it.
In just about the worst imaginable way.
Of course, Utah State is not about to throw back its admittedly ugly 14-7 victory over the Vandals on Saturday night at Romney Stadium.
The Aggies can handle their five turnovers, including one on the Idaho 10-yard line and another at the goal line.
They can stomach a couple of dropped passes by open receivers, which would have meant other scores.
They can live with the fact their determined-but-weary defense got pushed around by the ball-control Vandals for most of the fourth quarter.
Yes, they can smile because the Aggies won.
Mistakes be damned.
"I don't know if we'll win another game if we play as sloppily," said coach Mick Dennehy. " . . . We had chances to blow this thing wide open and we didn't blow things wide open. But we won a game we didn't play particularly well in."
Senior quarterback Travis Cox managed to smile after what he called the "worst game" he has played in 13 years of organized football.
Cox threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away once - all on consecutive snaps in the second quarter. But he also threw for a pair of touchdowns, including a 5-yarder to Tony Pennyman with 6:17 left in the third quarter that turned out to be the game-winner.
"I played crappy," Cox said. "But you come out here to get wins, and that's what we did."
Utah State, which scored the fewest points in a victory since 1994, trailed 7-6 at halftime. Mostly, Cox said, " . . . We shot ourselves in the foot."
Idaho had a chance to extend its lead early in the third quarter, when the Vandals parlayed the Aggies' fourth turnover in six possessions into a drive to the 12-yard line. But sophomore safety Joe Lindsay sacked Idaho quarterback Michael Harrington on second down and senior defensive tackle Ronald Tupea blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt to stop the Vandals' momentum.
According to Lindsay, defensive coordinator Dave Kotulski called a safety blitz that worked perfectly.
"We knew they were going to pass; they had been running all day," Lindsay said. "I just waited for the play action and [Harrington} was right in front of me."
On the blocked field goal, which kept the increasingly confident Vandals from taking a 10-6 lead, Tupea said, "We knew we could get some push on it. It was just a matter of wanting to. . . . I just put my hands up and it was like, 'Hit it. Please hit it.' And it did."
Utah State, 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the Sun Belt, quickly drove for the go-ahead score and two-point conversion, but Idaho stayed in the game when Cox hit freshman Kevin Robinson at the goal line. But he fumbled the ball away.
"You've got to give them credit," Cox said. "I don't know if it was really a fumble or not. But they made the play."
With eight minutes left, Idaho started a drive that took the Vandals to the Aggie 13. But on fourth-and-seven with 1:15 left, linebacker Jared Johnstun sacked Harrington.
"We were really tired," Johnstun said. "But frankly, when they got to the red zone, it was like we had to draw a line in the sand and say, 'You can't go any further."