Utah State Still Struggling To Find 60 Minutes Of Good Football

Sep 25, 2023, 10:05 AM

LOGAN, Utah – McCae Hillstead and the Utah State offense supplied the big plays but still came up short on Saturday night in a disappointing loss to James Madison.

Utah State showed no quit after falling behind by 24 points in the first half. The Aggies stormed back to tie the game early in the fourth quarter before succumbing 45-38.

“There’s a lot of positives. It’s hard to swallow when you know you had a chance to get one and let it slip,” head coach Blake Anderson said postgame.

RELATED: Late Interception Ends Utah State Comeback Attempt Against James Madison

In an all too familiar way to start for the Aggies, James Madison scored early and often. The Dukes took advantage of poor tackling and execution to stack big plays in the first half.

It certainly didn’t help when senior linebacker MJ Tafisi Jr. left the game early, but the Aggie defense has to find a way to get stops more consistently, especially early in games.

Before much of the Maverik Stadium crowd had settled into their seats, USU trailed 17-0 with 4:44 left in the first quarter. The lead grew to 24-0 on the first play of the second quarter.

Anderson didn’t mince words when talking about the opening 15 minutes. “We’ve got to find a way to come out and play better early. That’s about as bad of a first quarter as you can play.”

RELATED: Devin Dye Interception Leads To Utah State Trick-Play Touchdown Against JMU

JMU receivers got behind Utah State’s secondary several times. At others, tackling was the issue as the Dukes ran 47 plays in the first half. James Madison scored on passing plays of 54 yards and 57 yards in the first half. A back-breaking 74-yard catch and run by Reggie Brown, his second of the night, with 5:52 left was the game’s final touchdown.

After making some adjustments at halftime, Anderson was happy with the results.

“I think we got more aggressive in the second half. Once we showed some life on offense, it sparked the defense and the next thing you know, momentum got in our favor.”

RELATED: Anthony Switzer INT Leads To Vaughn’s Second Touchdown Grab

Terrell Vaughn Makes Finding End Zone A Habit

Senior wide receiver Terrell Vaughn has been putting on a clinic against opposing secondary’s this season. In his second season with Utah State, Vaughn has provided an offensive spark each week.

“I’m a leader,” Vaughn said earlier this season. “I gotta step up and make plays. It all starts with me.”

Vaughn began the season with back-to-back double-digit reception games, becoming the first Aggie to accomplish that feat since Kevin Curtis in 2001.

RELATED: Hillstead, Terrell Vaughn Combine For Second Half Touchdown

Last season, the 5’7 wideout from Oxnard, California topped 70 receiving yards three times and didn’t find the end zone until his fourth game with USU. In 2023, Vaughn already has a Mountain West-high six touchdowns and has had 70 yards or better through the air in three of four games. His 9.5 catches per game are second in the MW behind Colorado State’s Tory Horton; he is fifth in the conference with 86.75 receiving yards per game.

Following The Aggies With KSL Sports Zone

Utah State (1-3) completes the non-conference portion of their 2023 schedule when they take on the Connecticut Huskies (0-4) in Storrs, CT on Saturday, September 30. This game completes a home-and-home series against the Huskies. The series’ first game was a 31-20 USU win at Maverik Stadium to open the 2022 season. The Aggies are 2-0 all-time against UConn.

USU football games are found on KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard and former Aggie quarterback Kevin White (1988-89) on the call.

KSL Sports coverage of Utah State University Athletics can be found here. 

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Utah State Still Struggling To Find 60 Minutes Of Good Football