Idaho turnovers costly in 45-9 loss to Utah State
LOGAN, Utah (AP)
Jason Gesser knew he'd be asked about his future, especially after Idaho lost its 11th game of the season.
''We are still recruiting,'' the Vandals interim head coach said after Saturday's 45-9 loss to 25th-ranked Utah State.
''We have a handful of guys concentrating on recruiting, mostly in the Northwest. And I will continue to do so until I'm told otherwise. ''
This is not how Gesser expected Idaho's season to go.
But after a 70-28 loss to Louisiana Tech, Robb Akey was fired and Gesser took over.
He coached the final four games, all losses, though the Vandals (1-11, 1-5 WAC) put up a fight in losing 34-27 last week to Texas-San Antonio and again Saturday in Logan to the Western Athletic Conference champions.
''We stuck around due to the run game before it got away from us,'' Gesser said.
Running back Mike Bass had 78 yards rushing at halftime, as the Vandals held a 142-90 edge in total yards. But they trailed 21-6 because of three interceptions by quarterback Taylor Davis, who was making his first start of the season and only fourth of his career.
Davis also fumbled before giving way to Logan Bushnell late.
''The game was kind of like the story of the season,'' Gesser said. ''We shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers.''
Utah State continued to rely on its stars.
Chuckie Keeton passed for two touchdowns, Kerwynn Williams rushed for 110 yards and senior Will Davis returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown as Utah State secured its first outright conference title in 76 years.
The Aggies (10-2, 6-0) also earned their first 10-win season.
Williams' 52-yard run set up Keeton's 3-yard TD pass to Kellen Bartlett early in the third quarter for a 28-9 advantage for the Aggies.
Williams added a 14-yard TD run in the fourth after opening the scoring with a 19-yard TD reception.
Lou Groza Award finalist Trey Farquhar kicked field goals of 38, 46 yards and 52 yards - his 11th career field goal of 50 yards or more - for Idaho.
While the season is over, Gesser has to wait to find out his future.
He said he has had one interview and will have another next week, but there also are three or four other candidates to coach a team that just three years ago had an eight-win season and a Humanitarian Bowl victory.
The Aggies, meanwhile, accepted an invitation to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for the second straight year.
That announcement came after thousands of fans stormed the field at Romney Stadium following the record-setting regular season, Utah State's final in the WAC before moving up to the Mountain West Conference.
Fans chanted ''WAC champs'' as the clock wound down in the fourth, then turned their attention to head coach Gary Andersen, perhaps the biggest reason for the turnaround for a team once considered a laughingstock.
They shouted ''Gary, Gary'' for the fourth-year coach, considered one of the hottest prospects in the nation.
Idaho players have to wonder who their next coach will be.
Akey was fired after the Vandals allowed 70 points in a loss to Louisiana Tech.
Despite the miserable season, Idaho came out fired up Saturday, holding Utah State to minus-6 yards on its first possession - the first time in six games the Aggies didn't score a touchdown on their opening possession.
A 61-yard punt then backed up Utah State to its 1 on its next possession, and Keeton was intercepted on his first pass attempt of the game by Bradley Njoku at the Aggies 41.
It was all Utah State after that, thanks to the Aggies' 21st-rated defense.
Senior linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu's first career interception and 48-yard return gave the Aggies the ball at the Idaho 11. A penalty backed the Aggies up, but Keeton found Williams open across the middle on third-and-18.
Williams did the rest, making a defender miss and scampering into the end zone for a 19-yard TD reception and 7-0 Utah State lead with 9:42 left in the first.
Another mistake led to Utah State's second touchdown.
B.J. Larsen's first career interception gave the Aggies the ball at the Idaho 23 with 3:59 left in the first, and soon after Keeton scored on a 1-yard keeper for a 14-0 lead.
Davis put the Aggies up 21-0 less than 2 minutes into the second quarter when he jumped a route and returned the interception 59 yards.
Davis, who halted Colby Cameron's NCAA record streak of 444 consecutive passes without an interception last week in an overtime victory over Louisiana Tech, has had an interception in five straight games. It was the Aggies' first interception for a touchdown since Devon Hall in 2007.
Farquhar supplied the Idaho offense and finished his career with a school-record 60 field goals.
The game's ending was as ugly as the season after a late hit by an Idaho player with 3:47 nearly ignited a scrum after the Vandals cleared their bench and ran onto the field. They were penalized for the late hit and for unsportsmanlike conduct, putting Utah State in position to score another touchdown three plays later.
''I've got to say that I am ashamed and embarrassed about the incident near the end of the game,'' Gesser said. ''I apologize to the Aggie fans and our fans and that is the type of thing that has to get fixed and It will never happen again as long as I'm involved as a coach.''