PROVO -- Late Friday night at BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium, Utah State kicker Josh Thompson missed a 38-yard fourth-quarter field goal that would have erased his team's deficit.
Aggie fans have seen this before -- nearly three weeks ago, in fact. USU (4-2) suffered their second defeat of the season by virtue of the same scenario, as the Cougars (4-2) followed last season's three-point victory in Provo with another nailbiter, a 6-3 decision on ESPN. Thompson missed a field goal -- nearly from the same distance -- with seven seconds left on Sept. 15 against Wisconsin. This time, it came with 7:47 remaining, the first time the Aggies had moved within field goal range in the second half.
USU coach Gary Andersen certainly wasn't about to place the low-scoring affair on Thompson alone, however.
"We didn't throw well enough; we didn't take advantage of opportunities well enough; we didn't catch it well enough," Andersen said. "From A to Z, we were not good enough.
"It's a team loss, from top to bottom. And a tough loss."
Utah State was attempting to sweep in-state counterparts Utah and BYU for the first time since 1974. Offensive struggles and a solid effort from freshman quarterback Taysom Hill, who was making his second career start, indeed added to the kicking woes. The Aggies saw season lows in total offense (243) and rushing yards (41).
USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton went just 12-of-23 in the second half (22-of-38 overall) as a half-dozen passes were dropped and offensive coordinator Matt Wells went away from running back Kerwynn Williams after intermission. Williams, who gained 260 total yards last week in what he described as the best game of his career, gained just 28 yards on 14 carries after getting the call nine times (for 24 yards) in the first half.
As a result, the USU offense couldn't generate enough fluidity to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the defense, which allowed its fewest points on the road since it won at UNLV in 1995.
In fact, Thompson's miss followed an interception by freshman linebacker Kyler Fackrell that he returned near midfield.
"Defensively, we knew it was going to be a battle," Andersen said of facing the fifth-best total defense in the nation. "We were going to have to play extremely well to get us into a position to have an opportunity. We did play well."
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson -- the one-season USU signal-caller who came off the bench to lead the wild comeback over his former team last season -- took most of the reps Tuesday in practice. Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall said he could have played.
But Mendenhall went a different direction, citing a concern with playing Nelson against a "caliber" of opponent like USU while not at full strength.
Instead, Hill made his second career start, and while BYU didn't put many points on the board, they out-gained the Aggies by 137 yards and had possession for more than nine more minutes. Hill (24-of-35, 235 yards) gained 315 total yards one week after totaling 265 in a shutout of Hawaii.
"We will find a role for Riley," Mendenhall said. "It's not going to be every snap. Even when he was the starter, we had rotations with Taysom coming in. He was really close to starting this week."
Regardless of the quarterback decision, the Cougars would have to rely on running back Jamaal Williams, also making his second career start. Though limited by USU's defense all night, Williams muscled two 11-yard runs with less than two minutes remaining, after two penalties nullified the Aggies' first drive since the Thompson miss -- and, as it turned out, the last of the game.
Though the freshman had gained just 49 yards on 15 carries, his last-minute effort closed the door on any additional USU opportunities.
A similar story prevailed at the end of the first half. BYU's only score of the game came on a four-play, 61-yard drive that lasted 28 seconds. Hill connected with two receivers for 28- and 25-yard gains before a three-yard dump to Logan native J.D. Falslev for the go-ahead score with three seconds left in the second quarter.
"We moved the ball pretty well," Hill said. "Our mind set going into the last few seconds of the first half was to score.
"Every time I get more experience, I feel a lot more confident going out the next time."
For Andersen, he hopes his team shares the same sentiment about themselves, despite their lowest offensive output of the season -- and the fewest since 2007, a 52-0 loss against Boise State.
"We got beat by a very good football team in a very, very difficult place to play and we'll continue to fight," he said. "The bottom line is this: we're 4-2, two games away from being bowl eligible -- which is huge -- and we haven't started WAC play yet."
That task will begin next Saturday at San Jose State (4-1).
BYU 6, Utah State 3
Friday at Edwards Stadium
Utah State 3 0 0 0 -- 3
BYU 0 6 0 0 -- 6
USU--J. Thompson 26 field goal, :34.
BYU--Falslev 3 pass from T.Hill (kick failed), :03.
First downs 16 20
Rushes-yards 24-41 45-145
Passing 202 235
Comp-Att-Int 22-39-1 24-36-1
Return yards 14 (-2)
Punts-avg. 7-42.4 6-42.3
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-44 6-50
Time of possession 25:11 34:49
Rushing--Utah State, Keeton 10-23, K.Williams 14-18. BYU, T. Hill 19-80, Williams 17-71, Foote 4-13, Lasike 2-1, Team 2-(minus 4), Falslev 1-(minus 16).
Passing--Utah State, Keeton 22-38-0-202, Webb 0-1-1-0. BYU, T. Hill 24-36-1-235.
Receiving--Utah State, Austin 7-72, K. Williams 5-39, Webb 2-25, Bartlett 2-23, Reynolds 2-22, Marshall 2-11, Glover-Wright 2-10. BYU, Hoffman 8-114, Friel 5-53, Falslev 4-17, Williams 3-21, Apo 2-10, Foote 1-13, Mahina 1-7.