Three Keys To Watch As Air Force Takes On Utah State

Oct 7, 2022, 11:53 AM


PROVO, UT- SEPTEMBER 29: Blake Anderson head coach of the Utah State Aggies gestures as he argues a call with an official during the first half of their game against the Brigham Young Cougars September 29, 2022 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.

LOGAN, Utah – The Utah State Aggies have a chance to get their season back on track against the Air Force Falcons this weekend in Logan.

Utah State (1-4, 0-1) hosts Air Force (4-1, 1-1) at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, October 8. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MST).

On the heels of possibly their most complete performance of the season, Cooper Legas is set to make the second start of his career with the Aggies looking at this game as a potential spring-board for success in the second half on 2022.

“It was the best we’ve looked this season in all three phases at one time for for an extended period against a really good football team,” head coach Blake Anderson said of the loss. “If we can play like that consistently and eliminate the turnover, I think we got a good football team that can win games in our league.”

Injured quarterback Logan Bonner echoed those sentiments in an interview with Hans & Scotty G. on the Zone Sports Network earlier this week.

“This is going to be a huge game for us as a program. I think we’re close to getting to where we want to be. We’re showing signs of it here and there. We just got to play our complete game. I think we do that, we have a chance to compete and win and and see what happens.”

What does a complete game look like for the Aggies? Here are three keys to a Utah State victory this weekend.

Protect the Football

The Aggies have turned the ball over at an alarming rate this season. Last in the Mountain West with 15 total turnovers, USU is minus-eight in turnover margin this season, tied for 126th out of 131 FBS teams. Their 15 turnovers is last in college football and 13 TO’s in the past three games would be tied with Northwestern for the worst mark overall.

Running the triple-option, Air Force has not thrown an interception, attempting just 36 passes this seasons. As a team, the Falcons have lost seven fumbles while the defense has forced six turnovers.

In his first career start last week against BYU, Legas turned the ball over three times. A pair of interceptions, including a first half Max Tooley pick-six that gave BYU their first lead of the game. Legas also lost a second quarter fumble, ending a promising Aggie drive in the red zone.

“You’ve got to be very deliberate about what you’re doing. Wideouts need to work with him and try to find open grass. Then he’s got to be willing to check the ball down there,” Anderson said in his weekly press conference. “He just struggled to move through his progression at the pace he needed to in that environment. That’s something I think more reps are going to help him get better at it.

For an Air Force offense that relies on ball control and running the clock, it will be critical for Legas to be judicious with his throws and Aggie ball carriers to protect the rock to limit Air Force possessions.

Don’t Beat Yourself

This game will be a matchup of the Mountain West’s least penalized team (Air Force) against the conference’s most penalized team (Utah State).

The Aggies have shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with 47 penalties, racking up 432 negative yards, or an average of 86.4 penalty yards per game. They have the fourth most penalties in college football this season.

Repeat, USU is surrendering nearly an entire football field worth of penalty yards every game. It’s tough to win that way.

On the other sider of the coin, Air Force has committed 18 penalties this season for an average of less than 30 penalty yards per game. By contrast, Utah State has had 11 penalties in a single game three times already this year.

Somebody Make A Play

Anderson, Legas and the Aggies know what they have in graduate-senior wide receiver Brian Cobbs (28 catches, 337 yards, 3 TD’s) and senior wideout Justin McGriff (13 catches, 220 yards, 2 TD’s). But with the season ending injury to Kyle Van Leeuwen, somebody needs to step up and seize the third wide receiver role in the USU offense.

Terrell Vaughn, NyNy Davis, and to a lesser extent Xavier Williams, are the obvious choices for filling that role.

Vaughn has 173 yards and two touchdowns on 17 catches this season. Davis has made eight grabs for 56 yards. An Alabama transfer, Williams has yet to establish his value in the offense with one catch this year.

If Vaughn or Davis can take over as a deep threat, busting the top off of opposing defenses, Legas should find plenty more room to work underneath. Against BYU, Legas showed a willingness to get the ball downfield, now it’s up to his wideouts to find some space.

Up Next

Utah State (1-4, 0-1) moves into a critical portion of their schedule with their remaining seven games coming against Mountain West competition. The Aggies return home to face the Air Force Falcons (4-1, 1-1). Kickoff for this game is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MST).

Following this weekend’s date with Air Force, the Aggies head out on the road for games at Colorado State and Wyoming.

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.

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Three Keys To Watch As Air Force Takes On Utah State