Instant Analysis: Utah State 41, Toledo 15

No. 22 Utah State capped off a terrific season with a 41-15 victory over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho on Saturday. The Aggies finished the season 11-2 with their lone losses, to BYU and Wisconsin, by a combined five points. Here’s how the WAC champion Aggies knocked off Toledo, who finished 9-4 overall, 6-2 in the MAC.

How the game was won: Toledo made three trips to the red zone in the second half but scored just three points. Utah State got an interception, forced a turnover on downs and forced Toledo to settle for a field goal while protecting a 13-6 lead in the second half.

It was over when: USU running back Kerwynn Williams galloped 63 yards for a game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. After fumbling on the Aggies’ previous possession, Williams made up for his mistake, using a combination of patient running, vision, strength and speed on his long touchdown run. Williams’ touchdown gave Utah State its first double digit lead, 20-9, with 6:57 left in the game.

Game ball goes to: Williams. The senior finished with 18 carries for 229 yards and three touchdowns. Williams’ dynamic day included two fourth-quarter runs of 50 yards or more. His combination of speed and strength proved too much for the Rockets defense in the final 15 minutes. He had seven carries for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: 11.2. That’s the average yard per rush for Utah State. The Aggies offensive line did a terrific job controlling the trenches, allowing Aggie ball carriers to break game-altering runs. In addition to William’s long runs, quarterback Chuckie Keeton scored the first touchdown of the game on a 62-yard run in the first quarter. USU finished with 31 carries for 347 yards and five touchdowns.

Turning point: Toledo lost running back David Fluellen and linebacker Dan Molls, two of their top players, to injuries during the game. Molls entered the game with 166 tackles but left the game after taking a blow to the head on the opening kickoff and Fluellen, who rushed for 1,460 yards this season, left with a ankle injury in the first half. Those losses handcuffed the Rockets on both sides of the ball throughout the contest as Toledo was forced to move standout receiver Bernard Reedy to the backfield at various times with Fluellen out of the game and the Aggies ran all over the Rocket defense with Molls sidelined.

Unsung hero: Keeton. Williams’ terrific fourth quarter overshadowed the Aggies quarterback, who passed for 227 yards and rushed for 92 yards and one touchdown. He managed the game terrifically through three quarters, protecting the ball and the lead to allow USU’s offensive line to wear down the Rockets in the final quarter.