7 – Turnovers forced by the Utah State defense
Okay, okay. The purpose of this column is to dive a little deeper and look at some of the more overlooked stats from the game, but this number can’t be emphasized enough. Make no mistake about it, the Aggie defense won this game. BYU came out on top in just about every statistical category, and someone looking at a box score without turnover numbers may be led to believe that the Cougars won the game. But that’s like saying “LeBron James wouldn’t be in the NBA if he were four-foot-six.” Coming into Saturday’s game, BYU hadn’t lost a single fumble. Let me remind you that they’ve played against LSU, Wisconsin, and Utah. Not one fumble lost until the Utah State defense picked up three.
In the past two weeks the Aggie defense has forced 12 turnovers, while in 12 games last season they combined for 11. Let that sink in for a minute. USU is currently nationally ranked first in turnovers caused and 18th in turnover margin. A few more national ranks for the Aggies: first in defensive TD’s, first in blocked kicks, first in blocked punts, second in fumbles recovered, sixth in kickoff return defense, and tenth in interceptions.
4 – Successful third-down conversions by BYU
While rewatching this game, one thing which really stood out to me was not just how well the Aggie defense played, but how well they played when it really mattered. The past two weeks we have seen the Utah State defense play with a certain level of nastiness that hasn’t been seen in years, or at least since there was a Vigil brother on the team. That nastiness especially manifested itself on third and fourth downs. BYU went just 4-of-14 on third down conversions, and 0-of-3 on fourth down conversions. Last week against San Jose State, the numbers were even more in USU’s favor, as the Spartans went 2-of-13 on third down conversion attempts. Utah State last season allowed it’s opponents to convert on 41% of third down attempts and 58% of fourth down attempts, so this has been a major upgrade to say the least.
22 – Runs in the final 24 offensive plays for USU
This is a stat that I’m torn on. I’m torn, because I’m generally against trying to milk the clock with an entire quarter left to play and just a two-possession lead, but despite recent struggles with running the ball, it worked and the Aggies won. Utah State threw the ball just one time in the entire fourth quarter. One time. I think this really speaks to the attitude and resilience of this squad, because even though they were smaller, less physical, and generally overpowered, the Aggie offensive line and running backs were able to string together a six-minute, 50-yard drive in the fourth quarter before eventually getting stuffed on fourth-and-one. Matt Wells clearly has a lot of confidence in his offensive line and his running game this year, and they showed us why on that drive. Let’s just take a minute to appreciate that we have an average at worst offensive line at Utah State, that’s something we haven’t been able to say very often!
1 – Time in the last two weeks a USU opponent has made it into the red zone
Last season, Aggie opponents made it into the red zone an average of four times per game. In the past two weeks, BYU and San Jose State made it into the red zone a combined total of one time (a fourth quarter field goal by BYU’s Rhett Almond). This goes back to the defensive nastiness I was talking about earlier. After abysmal showings against Wisconsin and Wake Forest, the Aggie defense has bounced back to show a tremendous amount of grit and determination. A low number of red zone attempts by an opponent can sometimes be caused by a team having lots of long plays, however this wasn’t the case on Saturday. The Utah State defense allowed just four plays of over 15 yards.