Utah State entered Friday night having not beaten BYU in Provo since 1978, but the Aggies snapped that 17-game road losing streak and claimed the Old Wagon Wheel with a 35-20 win over the No. 18 Cougars.
Here are three thoughts from the matchup:
1. What will BYU do without Taysom Hill?
The rest of BYU’s season stands in question due to a serious injury to quarterback Taysom Hill, the Cougars’ unquestioned leader.
With 2:43 to play in the first half, Hill scrambled to the left before being tackled by Utah State safety Brian Suite. The quarterback then limped to the sideline and was carted off the field, grimacing in obvious pain. At the beginning of the third quarter, BYU confirmed the bad news: Hill suffered a fractured left leg and would not return.
A Heisman Trophy candidate, Hill is a game-changing talent for BYU. He sparks the offense with his arms and his legs, His 107 rushing yards per game entered the night ranked third among the country’s quarterbacks. Backup Christian Stewart didn’t display the same abilities on Friday. Stewart threw interceptions on three of his first four second-half drives, including one inside the Aggies’ 10-yard line. BYU's offense simply couldn't get going behind the senior.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Hill will indeed miss the rest of the season and face a 3-4 month recovery. The program’s chances of notching an unbeaten season and realistically contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff largely rested on Hill’s skills. It also doesn’t help that a number of other Cougars like linebacker Alani Fua, defensive back Dallin Leavitt and offensive lineman Brayden Kearsley appeared to suffer ankle injuries on Friday. This is beginning to look like a banged-up BYU squad.
Mendenhall is highly respected on the sidelines, but now the coach will earn every cent of his paycheck working to make up for Hill's absence. In the meantime, BYU might have to postpone its playoff dreams.
2. Utah State’s defense made the Cougars work
Utah State forced 11 turnovers in its past three games, and that ball-hawking trend continued against BYU.
The Cougars turned the ball over four times on Friday, including Stewart’s three interceptions. Of course, Utah State’s job got a lot easier once Hill left the game, but the Aggies took advantage by flummoxing Stewart and keeping BYU out of the end zone in the second half. The senior completed only 10 of his 29 passes and failed to find the end zone even once. The Cougars came in averaging 230.2 yards on the ground, but BYU's rushing attack also couldn't hang with Utah State and managed just 154 yards on 34 carries.
3. Darell Garretson deserves a tip of the hat
BYU wasn’t the only team facing quarterback questions on Friday night. Utah State star Chuckie Keeton, who returned this year from a torn ACL, re-injured his left knee against Wake Forest on Sept. 13. The Aggies announced this week that Keeton would miss the rest of the season, which meant Garretson would inherit the reins to Utah State’s offense.
On Friday, Garretson showed plenty of potential against a BYU defense that allowed 18.8 points per game this season. He finished 19-of-25 for 321 yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing score. All four of Garretson's touchdowns came in the first half when Utah State netted three unanswered scores in the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead. At the break, Garretson had completed 14-of-17 passes for 257 yards.
It helps that Garretson appears to have some dangerous threats on the edge in Hunter Sharp (five catches for 173 yards on Friday) and Devonte Robinson (six catches for 98 yards). The Aggies couldn't also produce on the ground, as they finished with just 3.0 yards per carry as a team, but Garretson looked like he could become an unlikely spark for this offense going forward.