Utah State Defeats Northern Illinois 21-14 in Poinsettia Bowl
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013
Behind 143 rushing yards from hometown talent Joey DeMartino, Utah State defeated No. 24 Northern Illinois, 21-14, Thursday night to win the 2013 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
DeMartino, a senior running back, was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player for his efforts, which included one touchdown and a 58-yard rush which is a new Poinsettia Bowl record for longest rushing play. It was DeMartino's seventh 100-yard outing this season and the Aggies have now won 15 games in a row when having a 100-yard rusher.
Senior linebacker Jake Doughty was named the Defensive MVP for his eight tackle, one fumble recovery outing. Doughty added had 1.5 tackles for loss.
With their first back-to-back bowl wins in school history, the Aggies finish the 2013 season with a 9-5 overall record, tying the 1960 and 1961 teams for the second-most wins in school history, behind the 2012 USU team's 11 wins. USU head coach Matt Wells also set the single-season school record for wins by a first-year head coach, bettering Tony Knap, who posted an 8-2 record in 1963.
Northern Illinois suffered back-to-back losses after a 12-0 start. The Aggies now hold a 2-0 all-time series lead, also beating NIU in 1995.
Utah State ended the game with 289 total yards, on 168 rushing and 121 passing. Senior running back Robert Marshall added 40 yards on six carries, including a 24-yard scamper on a 4th-and-1 at the NIU 39 to continue a dive in the third quarter.
Freshman quarterback Darell Garretson was 17-of-28 for 121 yards passing with the lone touchdown and getting intercepted twice. However the Aggie defense didn't yield any points off the two picks, as they have now allowed just 13 points following 16 turnovers this season.
Senior safety Brian Suite led the Aggies' defensive with a game-high 11 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery. Junior linebacker Zach Vigil added nine stops while Doughty tallied eight tackles, while redshirt-freshman linebacker Nick Vigil and junior safetyFrankie Sutera had seven tackles apiece.
The Aggie defense limited NIU to a season-low 315 yards of total offense, tallying 216 passing a being limited to 99 yards rushing, also a season-low for the Huskies, who were led by senior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who was third in the final Heisman Trophy standings. The 14 points was also a season-low for the Huskies.
Lynch ended the game 20-of-35 passing for 216 yards and one touchdown, but just 39 yards rushing on 18 carries, for his second-fewest rushing yards of the season. Lynch was also sacked twice by the Aggie defense, tying the most allowed by NIU this season. Tommylee Lewis had six catches for 55 yards to lead the NIU receivers.
Utah State got on the board first with a 31-yard field goal by junior placekicker Nick Diaz for a 3-0 Aggie lead with 6:56 left in the first quarter. The field goal was set up by a fumble recovery that was forced by Doughty that Suite recovered, setting up the Aggies at the NIU 46.
The Huskies tried to counter with a field goal of their own on their ensuing possession, but it was wide left.
Utah State took over and DeMartino's Poinsettia Bowl record-long scamper of 58-yards got the Aggies deep into the Huskies territory, before the drive stalled. Diaz made sure it didn't go without reward with a 39-yard upright split that tied the Poinsettia Bowl for longest field goal and a 6-0 Aggie advantage just 51 seconds into the second quarter.
Northern Illinois got on the board with a 2-yard scamper by Lynch with 8:17 left in the second quarter for the Huskies to take a 7-6 lead, which they held into halftime.
The Aggie defense made a sudden change on NIU's opening possession of the second half, as Suite intercepted Lynch on the first play from scrimmage, setting up the USU offense at the NIU 31. Later Garretson hit Swindall on a slant for the 5-yard touchdown and Diaz drilled the extra poing for a 13-7 USU lead with 11:57 remaining in the third quarter.
Garretson was picked off early in the fourth quarter, giving the Huskies the ball at the USU 13, but the Aggie defense bowed up and held them to a field goal attempt, which they missed for their second miss of the night.
USU took over and the Aggies served up a steady dose of DeMartino and Marshall, who rushed left, rushed right and rushed up the middle for large chunks of yards at a time, eating up clock as they went. DeMartino capped the drive by hitting paydirt from a yard out, in the final play of a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 7:19. Garetson hit sophomore wide receiver Bruce Natson for the two-point conversion and a 21-7 Aggie advantage with 4:14 left.
NIU successfully converted a pair of fourth-downs, the second on a fourth-and-10 from the USU 15, that Lynch hit Juwan Brescacin for a touchdown and the extra point pulled the Huskies within, 21-14 with 1:44 left. On the Huskies' ensuing on-side kick, Swindall pounced on the bouncing pigskin before he was swarmed by a dog pile of Huskies to seal the win.
The Aggies lined up in victory formation, and Garretson took a couple knees to end the game and spark the celebration.
USU will return 14 starters (six offense, five defense and three special teams) and the Aggies will open their spring workouts in preparation for the 2014 season-opener on Saturday, Aug. 30 at Tennessee.
For 2014 Aggie football ticket information, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or 435-797-0305 during regular hours of operation. Fans can also buy their tickets in person at the USU Ticket Office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or online by clicking on the "Buy Tickets" tab at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics, on facebook at Utah State University Athletics or on instagram at instagram.com/USUAthletics.