BOISE, Idaho -- Utah State running back Kerwynn Williams was having a quiet day when things took a turn for the worse in the fourth quarter when he fumbled deep in his own territory.
As it has all season, the Aggies' defense did its job, holding Toledo to a field goal that cut the lead to 13-9 with 7:28 to go. Then Williams atoned for his mistake -- in a big way.
On the next possession, Williams broke through the defense and raced 63 yards for a touchdown. On the next two possessions, the senior was unstoppable, ripping off a 56-yard run and scoring TDs on runs of 5 and 25 yards, all within a span of less than 4 minutes to lift No. 18 Utah State to a 41-15 victory over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday.
"When stuff like that happens, you have to have a short memory," Williams said about the fumble. "You can't change it. I just knew the next opportunity for me, I needed to make a big play."
Williams' fourth-quarter spree fueled a 28-point Aggies scoring burst that turned a close game into a blowout. Williams finished with a career-best 235 yards rushing on 18 carries, with 182 of those yards coming on six carries in the fourth quarter, and was voted MVP.
Williams' heroics also capped the most successful season in the history of Utah State football. The Aggies finished 11-2, won the Western Athletic Conference title outright and won a bowl game for the first time since 1993. Utah State also will likely finish ranked for the first time since 1961.
"You play in bowls to win championships, and they did that today," said Aggies coach Gary Andersen, who in four years has turned a Western Athletic Conference doormat into the top team of a conference soon to be obsolete. "They (team) reached every single goal they set last January. That doesn't happen often in life or often in football. I'm very, very proud of them."
The Aggies, bolstered all year by one of the best defenses in FBS, rolled up 582 yards total on offense.
Quarterback Chuckie Keeton was 21-of-31 passing for 229 yards and 92 yards rushing, including a 62-yard dash that put Utah State up 7-3 in the first quarter.
The defense also turned in another impressive performance. Toledo (9-4) was able to move the ball at times and made five trips inside the red zone. But penalties, miscues and an inability to execute on critical plays forced the Rockets to settle for three Jeremiah Detmer field goals. Detmer hit a pair from 37 yards out and another from 29, closing his season by making 17 straight.
Toledo's only touchdown came when Bernard Reedy returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. Reedy was the only big producer on a Toledo offense held to 315 total yards. Reedy had 51 yards rushing and caught six passes for 62 yards.
"When they got down in the red zone, they scored touchdowns. When we got down into the red zone we kicked field goals," first-year Toledo coach Matt Campbell said. "In big football games you have to win details."
Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin, who started in place of the injured Terrance Owens, was 12 of 21 passing for 132 yards. Dantin threw an interception in the third quarter to end a promising scoring drive and was replaced by Owens in the fourth quarter.
Owens moved the Rockets on his first possession, but another red-zone opportunity was squelched when the Aggies snuffed Owens for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play from the 9.
Toledo also was forced to adjust early without two of its best players. Linebacker Dan Molls, the nation's leading tackler, had a concussion on the opening kickoff and didn't return. Minutes later, running back David Fluellen, the nation's eighth-leading rusher, went down with an ankle injury. He finished with 38 yards on seven carries.
Campbell refused to use the injuries to Moll and Fluellen as an excuse and pointed out the game was close until the final 7˝ minutes.
"Injuries happen, they occur, you have to have the ability to adapt and you have to have the ability to move on," he said. "We were still in the game in the fourth quarter. I'm really proud of our football team from that standpoint."