BOISE, Idaho -- The sight was odd enough: Utah State coach Gary Andersen holding a trophy full of potatoes while standing on a blue turf.
Then consider that the Aggies -- spurred by three explosive runs from their running back, Kerwynn Williams -- scored 28 points in the fourth quarter after managing just 13 in the first three.
Perhaps this is even more unique: a USU football team, now with 11 wins for the program's first time, is a conference champion and nationally-ranked team.
And now, a bowl champion.
Four breakout runs from Williams in the fourth quarter turned a nail-biter into a 41-15 blowout at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho. That didn't make USU's victory, their first bowl win since 1993, any less memorable for Andersen -- adamant about remembering the victory for at least a few days before considering next season -- or Williams, the game's MVP who in 2010 set the NCAA single-season record for kick return yards.
Williams answered the call of Bobby Wagner, a former teammate and 2012 draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks who asked in a tweet that he and cornerback Will Davis to "do it big" in their final collegiate game.
Williams indeed did that. His 235 yards rushing marks the second-highest in the 16-year history of the bowl. After being limited in carries last season while playing reserve to Robert Turbin -- another 2012 NFL draftee -- Williams added scored three touchdowns Saturday, also the second-highest the bowl has ever seen.
Initially, the milestones seemed distant.
With just 35 rushing yards at the time, Williams fumbled at the USU 18 with 9:17 to go and the Aggies leading by just one touchdown. It carried ruminations of last season's final-second defeat to Ohio on the same blue turf.
"After that, teammates kept saying they were behind me," Williams said. "The offensive line did great job clocking up front, and the rest is history."
It was made in the fourth quarter -- and in dramatic fashion.
A 63-yard scamper proved to be the first, and a 56-yard run moments later preceded a five-yard plunge that involved a massive push from perhaps every member of the Aggies' offensive line. A 25-yard run up the middle one minute later may have capped his scoring, though a 32-yard burst after darting over the right guard set up a 24-yard score from -- perhaps ironically enough -- his backup and projected 2013 starter, Joe Hill.
It prompted a compliment from a former Williams teammate.
"For a guy who as a freshman looked through the bottom of his face mask ... (Williams) turned out to be alright," tweeted Eric Moats, a senior receiver last season.
Bowl commissioner Kevin McDonald acknowledged the dullness of the first three quarters -- which amounted to a 13-6 USU lead -- to a staff member after the press conference. But Williams saw that changes would be in order.
"I think Kerwynn found some creases, for one thing," said Andersen, with Williams on his right. "We just ran the same basic run plays we'd been running. We have a tremendous back and offensive linemen who run hard and get it moving. You get this kid a crease and he's going to go all the way. It's one of our goals to be able to run the ball effectively late, and we were able to take that into the fourth quarter and be dominating." The Aggies might have benefitted from the loss of Toledo linebacker Dan Molls. The nation's leading tackler was injured on the game's opening kickoff and never returned.
Andersen earlier in the week had compared Molls to Wagner.
"The thing about Danny Molls: it's hard to believe it's the last game he'll play," Toledo first-year coach Matt Campbell. "It's not the end he would want or any of us seniors."
The Rockets never found liftoff.
Starting quarterback Terrance Owens, who was drafted in the 40th round of this year's Major League Baseball draft by the San Diego Padres, was replaced to begin with backup signal-caller Austin Dantin. Dantin was 12-of-21 for 132 yards before he was replaced by Owens on Toledo's first drive of the fourth quarter.
Owens finished 3-of-12 for 18 yards and was intercepted by Brian Suite with 4:21 remaining and the Rockets trailing 27-9.
The 10,000-plus USU fans treated quarterback Chuckie Keeton with as much admiration as Williams on the field as the awards ceremony commenced. Keeton went 21-of-31 for 229 yards and was carried off the field to end a sophomore season in which he was named first-team All-WAC.
He joins several key contributors next season, where Williams and 18 seniors will have departed and USU focuses on membership in the Mountain West Conference. But after the game, the future was far from Andersen's mind. Instead, he focused on the pride he felt that each goal the players set on Jan. 7 -- primarily, to win the WAC and a bowl game -- were accomplished.
"That doesn't happen very often in life. It doesn't happen very often in college football," Andersen said, pointing to the resiliency he described his team displayed after their Oct. 5 defeat at BYU. "We talk about it all the time, Let's go turn these young men into men. Whenever they get their backs up against a wall, they know they can set lots of goals and reach them. That's what they did this year. I'm very proud of them.
"The feeling right now is completely different," he added, contrasting the win to last year's defeat in Boise. "You play in bowls to win championships. This championship we won tonight will be up in our locker room and our facility forever."
No. 18 Utah State 41,
At Boise, Idaho
Toledo 3 3 0 9 -- 15
Utah St. 7 3 3 28 -- 41
Toledo--Detmer 37 field goal, 13:06.
USU--Keeton 62 run (Diaz kick), 3:07.
Toledo--Detmer 37 field goal, 9:57.
USU--Diaz 27 field goal, :00.
USU--Diaz 44 field goal, 11:12.
Toledo--Detmer 29 field goal, 7:28.
USU--K.Williams 63 run (Diaz kick), 6:57.
USU--K.Williams 5 run (Diaz kick), 4:55.
USU--K.Williams 25 run (Diaz kick), 3:41.
Toledo--Reedy 87 kickoff return (pass failed), 3:29.
USU--Hill 24 run (Diaz kick), 1:42.
First downs 18 22
Rushes-yards 37-142 31-353
Passing 173 229
Comp-Att-Int 19-39-2 21-31-0
Return Yards 5 34
Punts-Avg. 6-40.0 4-43.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 7-54 8-89
Time of Possession 35:55 24:05
Rushing--Toledo, Reedy 10-50, Fluellen 7-38, McDowell 5-21, Pasquale 6-17, Owens 2-14, Dantin 6-6, Team 1-(minus 4). Utah State, K.Williams 18-235, Keeton 9-92, Hill 3-26, Diaz 1-0.
Passing--Toledo, Dantin 12-21-2-132, Owens 6-17-0-30, Macon 1-1-0-11. Utah State, Keeton 21-31-0-229.
Receiving--Toledo, Reedy 6-62, Olack 3-17, Russell 2-35, Scott 2-12, Pasquale 2-9, McDowell 1-18, Owens 1-11, Macon 1-5, Davidson 1-4. Utah State, Austin 6-77, Jacobs 5-58, Natson 4-16, K.Williams 2-34, Reynolds 2-27, Bartlett 1-11, Webb 1-6.