Ohio beats Utah State 24-23 in Potato Bowl

Utah State is no stranger to tense, down-to-the-wire finishes,

and the Aggies found a way to win each time in their final five

regular-season games.

That streak of narrow wins ended Saturday when Ohio quarterback

Tyler Tettleton scored on a 1-yard run with 13 seconds remaining to

give the Bobcats a 24-23 victory in the Famous Idaho Potato


The loss was a heartbreaker for the Aggies, who were making

their first bowl appearance since 1997 and seeking their first

postseason win since 1993.

Behind a rushing attack that accounted for 345 yards, the Aggies

had led the whole game – at least until Tettleton and the Bobcats

offense rallied in the final 2 minutes to spoil Utah State’s best

season in 14 years.

Despite the disappointing finish, coach Gary Andersen insists

he’s not about to let his team get down.

”This season has turned young men into men,” Andersen said.

”It’s been unbelievably gratifying to get to this point.”

The Aggies (7-6) close games late early in the season, notably

to Auburn in the opener and later to Brigham Young. In 10 games

this season, the outcome was decided by 35 points.

But the team turned things around at the midway point, and found

ways to win down the stretch. The Aggies closed with a five-game

winning streak and finished second in the Western Athletic


They played well Saturday, dominating the first half and

building a 23-10 lead in the third quarter behind the running of

Michael Smith and Robert Turbin.

Smith rushed for a career-best 157 yards on 12 carries and two

touchdowns, including a 63-yarder on the opening possession of the

second half. His 11-yard touchdown run later in the third put the

Aggies up by 13 points. Turbin added 101 yards on 20 carries, his

eighth game this season of 100 yards or more on the ground.

But this time, Utah State failed to seal the deal in the final

quarter. On its last two possessions, Utah State managed just two

first downs. And after taking over at its own 7 with 4:23 to go,

Ohio came up with three straight stop to force a punt

Ohio took over with 2:02 remaining, just enough time for

Tettleton to spoil the Aggies season.

”Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone wants to win, but everyone

can’t win,” Smith said. ”All I can do is be grateful I’m here to

play this game. The sadness inside hasn’t really hit me yet,

because I’m shocked.”

The Aggies also can point to missed opportunities.

On their first possession, the Aggies (7-6) drove to the 1, but

Turbin was stopped short of the goal line on fourth down. The

Aggies missed another chance late in the second quarter when a

39-yard field-goal attempt by Josh Thompson sailed wide right.

After the game, Andersen refused to point fingers, opting

instead to see the game as critical for turning around a program

that has struggled for years in the basement of the WAC.

”This is a tremendous, tremendous day for these kids,” said

Andersen, who was rewarded last week with a one-year contract

extension. ”It’s tremendous opportunity for them to be here. It is

a loss, I’m never going to sit back and say, `That’s OK, we lost.’

What I am saying is it’s a learning tool for us.

”We won five close games in a row, and we lost some very close

game football games. Our mindset is to keep fighting for the next

season when we walk back in next month.”