Utah State rockets past Toledo in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
BOISE, Idaho -- The fumble seems trivial now.
But when Utah State senior running back Kerwynn Williams lost the ball in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, he gave the Toledo Rockets a chance to tie the score.
The Rockets settled for a field goal that cut their deficit to 13-9 -- and Williams took redemption to a new level.
Williams rushed for three touchdowns in the next four minutes -- on runs of 63, 5 and 25 yards. After the fumble, he carried six times for 182 yards.
The Aggies rolled to a 41-15 win.
"After that fumble happened, it made me more determined to get it going," said Williams, who rushed for 235 yards in the game and was the team MVP. "I wanted to do something big."
Williams' heroics capped a historic season for the No. 18 Aggies, who earned their first bowl trophy in 19 years. The Aggies finished 11-2 -- a school-record win total. They won their first outright conference title since 1936 and cracked the polls for the first time since 1978. They will finish in the Top 25 for the first time since 1961.
"It's the best season ever in the history of Utah State football," coach Gary Andersen said.
Toledo (9-4) fought through injuries that sidelined the nation's leading tackler (linebacker Dan Molls) and eighth-leading rusher (David Fluellen) to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets will lament their missed opportunities. They reached the red zone five times and settled for nine points -- on three field goals, a fourth-and-1 failure and an interception.
"If you're going to win the big game," coach Matt Campbell said, "you've got to execute the details."
Toledo junior wide receiver Bernard Reedy earned MVP honors for the second straight bowl game. He rushed for 50 yards, filling the void left by Fluellen in the second half, had six catches for 62 yards and returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.
"It was huge that we had a plan in place to get Bernard in the game (at running back)," Campbell said. "Bernard Reedy has been that guy who has consistently played at a very high level for 13 games now this season."
Toledo got off to a strong start against a Utah State team that dominates the first quarter. The Aggies had outscored opponents 131-6 in the first quarter, allowing just two field goals.
The Rockets grabbed some quick momentum with a flea flicker on their first play -- a 36-yard completion from quarterback Austin Dantin to Reedy. That set up a 36-yard field goal by Jeremiah Detmer for a 3-0 lead.
Utah State took the lead with an 85-yard touchdown drive on its second possession of the game. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton faked a handoff up the middle and ran the option to the right. He froze the defense with a fake pitch and darted down the right sideline. Just as it looked like he might go out of bounds at the 5-yard line, he jumped into the end zone. It was a 62-yard run.
Toledo closed to 7-6 with a 49-yard drive keyed by a 29-yard pass from Dantin to wide receiver Alonzo Russell. That set up another 37-yard field goal by Detmer.
The Aggies expanded their lead at the end of the first half. They got the ball on their own 6 with 1:39 left. Williams gained 6, 5 and 15 yards on consecutive plays to provide some breathing room and Keeton fired a 40-yard strike to Chuck Jacobs on a post route. Keeton tossed a 20-yard pass to Matt Austin on the next play, setting up first-and-goal at the 8 with five seconds left.
Nick Diaz kicked a 27-yard field goal on the last play of the half for a 10-6 lead.
Diaz added a 44-yard field goal on the first drive of the second half for a 13-6 lead. Austin's 34-yard catch sparked the drive.
Toledo had a chance to tie the score midway through the third quarter, but Dantin's pass over the middle was tipped by linebacker Jake Doughty and intercepted by linebacker Kyler Fackrell.
The Rockets drove deep into Aggies territory again in the fourth quarter, led by junior quarterback Terrance Owens. Owens, the regular starter, missed the regular-season finale with an ankle injury and didn't play in the first three quarters of the bowl game. But on fourth-and-1 at the Utah State 9, the Aggies stuffed Owens on a draw.
Toledo got the ball right back on the next play when linebacker Robert Bell stripped Williams and safety Jermaine Robinson recovered the fumble at the Utah State 29. The Rockets settled for another Detmer field goal, from 29 yards. That made it 13-9 with 7:28 left in the game.
NOTES: Dantin started at quarterback for the second straight game. ... Toledo linebacker Dan Molls, the nation's leading tackler, did not start after suffering a concussion on the opening kickoff. ... Detmer's first-quarter field goal was his school-record 22nd of the season. He finished with 24. ... The Rockets also lost star running back David Fluellen in the first quarter when he aggravated an ankle injury that kept him out of the regular-season finale. ... The attendance of 29,243 was the highest in the bowl's 16-year history for a game not involving Boise State.