Utah State Exemplifies Next Man Up Mentality In Win Over UConn

Sep 30, 2023, 3:28 PM | Updated: Oct 2, 2023, 1:46 pm

LOGAN, Utah –Β Utah State needed a variety of big plays in big moments to complete another comeback win under head coach Blake Anderson.

Utah State (2-3, 0-1) escaped East Hartford with a much-needed 34-33 win over the UConn Huskies (0-5).

RELATED: Blocked Extra Point Allows Utah State To Survive After Second-Half Comeback

Playing with a banged-up offensive line, the Aggies struggled to another poor offensive start. After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, Utah State had been outscored 67-7 in the opening 15 minutes of play this season.

“It definitely wasn’t pretty early,” Anderson said of his team’s performance. “We’re beat up and we struggled at times… It is the nature of where we’re at physically but those guys (offensive line) stepped in and found a way for us.”

Utah State has trailed by double-digits in the first half in four of five games this season. In 13 comeback wins under Anderson in his three seasons, eight have come from a double-digit deficit. USU is 9-1 in one-score games with Anderson at the helm.

The 17-point comeback was the fourth-largest in school history and the biggest comeback since 2015 for the Aggies.

Cooper Legas Stays Prepared For The Moment

When starter McCae Hillstead left with a concussion, Utah State could have hung their heads as they trailed by ten with less than a half to play. Instead, Legas, just two weeks after being benched against Air Force, looked cool and calm.

“Coop was ready for the opportunity,” Anderson said of his quarterback. “From the second we moved McCae in, he’s done a phenomenal job. He’s been in the meeting room with McCae, answering questions and helping him take notes and prepare. You’ve gotta give him a tremendous amount of credit.”

Two plays into his day, Legas hooked up with Jalen Royals for the first touchdown in what ended up being a career day for the junior wideout.

RELATED: Cooper Legas Finds Jalen Royals For TD After Hillstead Injury

Legas and Royals combined for three touchdowns in the second half.

“The quarterbacks are really good,” Royals said of Legas’ preparedness. “Cooper has been ready and he made the most of it.

Anderson said postgame that Hillstead is being evaluated for a concussion. “He got hit helmet to helmet pretty violently. We’re not sure what kind of a recovery we’re dealing with but Cooper was ready for his opportunity. We’ll continue to prepare him to get ready.”

Ike Larsen Strikes Again

Deflated. That’s what the Aggie sideline looked like after UConn drove 85 yards for a touchdown in the final minute. With the extra point, the Huskies would likely force overtime against a Utah State team likely gassed from coming back from 17 down earlier in the morning.

That extra point never came as sophomore safety Ike Larsen found a way to squeak through the line and block the first extra point of his career.

“When the time was right, we called a ‘block right’ and it all just happened,” Larsen said of his game-sealing block. “We saw it during the course of the game but didn’t want to give it away too early. I think it was perfect timing.”

In a game of inches, Larsen’s play came from a week of preparation and showed the dynamic safety’s ability to make big plays when the chips are down.

“The guy has a knack for getting there,” Anderson said of Larsen after the fifth blocked kick of his career. “I think he just feels like if you give him a crease, he’ll get there. Our guys got great push and he did a phenomenal job of coming clean.”

Following The Aggies With KSL Sports Zone

Utah State (2-3, 0-1) welcomes Mountain West conference foe Colorado State (2-2) to Maverik Stadium on Saturday, October 7. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. (MT). USU is 37-39-2 all-time against the Rams but has won the last four matchups. The Aggies are 7-3 in the last ten games and look to move above .500 at home as they enter with a 20-20-1 record on Merlin Olsen Field.

USU football games are found on KSL Sports ZoneΒ 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.Β 

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Utah State Exemplifies Next Man Up Mentality In Win Over UConn