Logan, UT. – Dominik Eberle kicked six field goals and senior running back Gerold Bright rushed for a career-high 134 yards and a touchdown as Utah State opened the home portion of its schedule with a dominating 60-13 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday night on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium.
The junior placekicker was also a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points. With his 24 total points on the night, Eberle tied an NCAA record for most points scored by a kicker. Furthermore, he became just the sixth person in NCAA history – and first in school history – to make three field goals of 50 yards or more (51, 51, 51). The last kicker to accomplish the feat prior to Eberle was Wake Forest’s Sam Swank against North Carolina State (51, 53, 53) on Oct. 14, 2006.
“Tonight was just one of those nights where I was happy to be out there with my team, giving everything I’ve got,” Eberle said. “They blocked really well for me. Our snapper (Brandon Pada) did a great job. Our holder (DJ Nelson) should have been the holder of the year last year and I just kicked the ball well. What else can I say?”
Eberle’s six field goals of 44, 32, 51, 21, 51 and 51 yards, respectively, are tied for the third-most in a game in NCAA history. The 2017 Lou Groza Award finalist also tied his own school record with the six field goal attempts, and kicked off 12 times for 754 yards (averaging 62.8 yards per kick) with nine touchbacks.
“You can’t over-coach him,” Utah State head coach Matt Wells said of Eberle. “That kid is a driven young man. He’s a great teammate, and all of his teammates love him. He owns his performance and all he does is put his head down and work. He’s a grinder, which is a weird analogy for a kicker, but he’s a grinder. Our players know it and that’s why you see pure excitement from them.”
Bright carried the ball 14 times on the night, helping Utah State (1-1) amass 274 total yards on the ground on 46 carries. His 51-yard touchdown run with 2:36 remaining in the third quarter gave the hosts a 47-13 lead.
Utah State finished with 446 yards of total offense on the night. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love was 14-of-27 for 159 yards and one touchdown, a 14-yard to senior wide receiver Jalen Greene that gave USU a 33-10 lead at the half. Ron’quavion Tarver was Love’s favorite target on the night as the senior wide receiver had a game-best five receptions for 41 yards.
USU nearly had a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time since 2012 as junior Darwin Thompson rushed for 96 yards on six carriers, including a 68-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that upped the Aggies’ advantage to 54-13.
For the second-consecutive week, sophomore linebacker David Woodward led Utah State in tackles with 13, including 1.0 sacks. Senior safety Aaron Wade added a career-best 10 stops, to go along with the first two interceptions of his career.
USU senior defensive end Adewale Adeoye also recovered two fumbles and senior cornerback Deante Fortenberry returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown with 7:58 left in the third quarter, giving the blue-clad Aggies a 40-10 lead.
NMSU quarterback Matt Romero was 18-of-33 for 161 yards and one touchdown, to go along with the three interceptions. He was sacked five times on the night, including 1.5 by USU junior linebacker Tipa Galeai, who also forced a fumble, as did sophomore linebacker Maika Magalei.
Romero threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Boone to give the white-cladded Aggies their only advantage of the night, 7-6, with 4:34 to go in the first quarter.
The lead lasted all of 15 seconds as USU sophomore wide receiver/kick returner Savon Scarver returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-7 in favor of the hosts. Utah State’s other touchdown of the night came courtesy senior running back Eltoro Allen, who scored on a 1-yard run with 5:46 remaining in the second quarter.
NMSU’s Terrill Hanks led all tacklers in the game with 19 stops, including 3.0 tackles for loss.
Up next for Utah State, the second of a three-game homestand on Thursday, Sept. 13. The Aggies will host Tennessee Tech (0-2), in a first-ever meeting. You can listen to Thursday’s USU versus Tennessee Tech game, and every Utah State football game this season on KACH AM 1340, FM 105.5. Join Scott Garrard and Kevin White for all the play-by-play action on the Aggie Radio Network, Sept. 13, beginning with pre-game at 5:00 and kickoff at 6 p.m.