Run Game Critical: Aggies Must Slow Down Rebels & Unlock Tyler Jr.

Sep 22, 2022, 11:19 AM


Aggie running back Calvin Tyler Jr. carries the ball against UConn at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, August 27, 2022.

LOGAN, Utah – The Utah State Aggies will be looking for their first complete game of the season in their Mountain West opener against UNLV this weekend.

The Aggies (1-2) play host to the much improved UNLV Rebels (2-1) at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, September 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MST).

USU opened the season with a bang, picking up 261 yards on the ground against UConn in a 31-20 Utah State win. Graduate senior Calvin Tyler Jr. had 161 yards on 33 carries while freshman Robert Briggs added 85 yards on 10 attempts to take home Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors.

Since that time, the Aggie run game has struggled to find traction.

Unsurprisingly, Tyler Jr, Briggs and the rest of the Aggie rushing attack was absent against No. 1 Alabama. USU finished with 79 yards on 37 carries, good for a paltry 2.1 yards per attempt.

The following week against FCS opponent Weber State, the Aggies were outgained 126 yards to 199 yards on the ground in a demoralizing 35-7 loss.

Through three games, Tyler Jr., the No. 23 player in the state, has just 238 rushing yards. His 3.7 yards per carry is far below the 4.5 yards per carry he averaged last season.

Rebels Rushing

A high powered offense, UNLV enters this matchup averaging 41.4 points per game. They are the 15th highest scoring team this season.

The Rebels average more than 200 yards per game on the ground as a team, tied for the 36th best rushing attack in the nation. Three Rebels have rushed for over 100 yards already this season.

Last week against North Texas, UNLV ran roughshod over the Mean Green, finishing with 365 rushing yards on 7.2 yards per carry.

Aidan Robbins, the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after his 227 yard, three touchdown performance against North Texas is a load.

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson mentioned the challenge of slowing UNLV’s rush attack in his weekly press conference. “They’re big, they run the ball they commit to running the ball, they’re good at it. They bring in a transfer running back in Robbins that is a massive 230 pound guy. It doesn’t get any easier for us.”

Robbins’ seven touchdowns are tied for the most TD’s in FBS this year.

At quarterback, 6’5 sophomore Doug Brumfield has locked down the job and is moving the ball through the air and with his legs.

Brumfield has completed better than 70% of his passes this year but it is his running ability that sets everything up for the Rebels. Brumfield is the Rebels second leading rusher with 153 yards on 28 carries, including a pair of touchdowns to go along with his seven TD’s through the air.

His ability to escape the pocket and extend plays will be a huge test for the Aggies.

Courtney Reese has served as a change of pace back behind Robbins. Reese is averaging 6.7 yards per carry on 18 attempts.

Growing Up

Defensively for the Aggies, slowing the UNLV rushing attack will start on the defensive line. Defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka missed the Weber State game while Poukesi Vakauta and Phillip Paea both left early with injuries.

Paea is out for the season with an ACL injury in his left knee but Motu’apuaka and Vakauta are each expected to return against the Rebels.

Utah State has allowed 240 rushing yards per game this season (128th out of 131 FBS teams) and Anderson isn’t pointing the finger at one single issue. “There’s a ton of things that we needed to work on. We’ve got a handful of guys playing for the first time and some of the motions and adjustments and shifts; we just mechanically were not where we needed to be.”

After Utah State struggled to set the edge defensively against Weber State, Anderson talked about that being a key to slowing the Rebel rushing attack. “The ball has got to stay back inside where your help is coming from. It’s got to improve quickly against his team.”

Up Next

Riding a two game losing streak, the Aggies (1-2) welcome in the UNLV Rebels (2-1) to Maverik Stadium in the Mountain West Conference opener for each team on Saturday, September 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MST).

Every Utah State football game can be heard on the KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard and former Aggie quarterback Kevin White on the call. This game will be televised on CBS Sports Network with Chris Lewis and former Utah State great, running back Robert Turbin on the mic.

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Run Game Critical: Aggies Must Slow Down Rebels & Unlock Tyler Jr.