by Daniel Olsen
In their matchup Saturday night, USU stayed with Air Force throughout the entire course of the game, never trailing by more than one score. Thanks to some turnovers by the Falcons, the Aggies were able to take advantage and hold on for a 34-27 win at Maverik Stadium.
This is the second straight game that Logan Bonner hasn’t started as he suffered a season-ending injury in the loss to UNLV. This was the second career start for Cooper Legas and the first at Maverik Stadium. He showed signs of someone who has learned a great deal under the mentorship of Bonner.
“The great thing about our team and the quarterback room is those guys care about each other and pull for each other,” Coach Blake Anderson said. “When Logan is on the bench, he has his headset on and explains what the opposing safeties or cornerbacks are doing. They communicate really well. It’s like having another set of eyes or another coach on the field. That’s one of the things to love about our team. Even if one guy doesn’t make the play, he wants the player on the field to make the play. Even if it’s difficult to take a sacrifice for someone else then so be it.”
Not only did Legas have a successful passing attack with a career high 215 passing yards, but he also helped the team ignite the running game. His dual-threat abilities combined with the diverse play calls led to some success in that aspect of the offense. Calvin Tyler Jr. rushed more than 100 yards for his second consecutive game and had his first rushing touchdown of the season. Legas had his longest career rushing touchdown (32 yards) in the final Aggie score of the game.
Despite all this offensive success, the special teams group had to convert the most important play of the season according to Coach Anderson: an onside kick recovery by Justin McGriff. With a difficult offense like the one Air Force implements, it’s important to keep the ball out of their hands at the end of the game.
Air Force scored 45 points against the Aggies last season. While the Aggies would win that game in a shootout, this time it was critical for the defense to slow down the triple option attack and force some turnovers. The Aggies did that by holding the Falcons to under 30 points for the first time in a winning effort since 2014. They also forced a fumble and an interception on consecutive Falcons’ drives in the fourth quarter.
“The defensive guys doing their job and being aggressive and physical slowed down the triple option,” USU cornerback Ajani Carter said. “Violence is the answer on the defensive side of the ball. We live and die by that.”
Carter had the interception that put the Aggies up by double digits for the first time in the game. A timeout gave the Falcons another chance on a field goal after their first attempt went off the crossbar. They made the second attempt to pull within a touchdown, but there wasn’t enough time to recover from the two late turnovers that the violent Aggie defense caused.
Cooper Legas makes strides
While Legas made headlines last year for a passing touchdown in his first career throw during the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, his first start was technically against his hometown team last week. Legas grew up in BYU Cougar country, where he was a star quarterback at Orem High School. While USU ultimately lost to BYU 38-26, Legas showed glimpses of what he did in the bowl game last year, scoring a rushing touchdown on his opening drive at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Some of that momentum appeared to carry into this week.
“It’s hard to take momentum from a loss,” Legas said. “We saw glimpses of good things and built off of that. This week I was able to see things more clearly with it being my second full game. I was able to go through what I needed to a little bit better than last week. We never let the game get out of control. Last week we got down by two scores but this week we were never down by more than one. Keeping the game under control allows us to play our offense the way we need to play and not try to do too much crazy stuff.”
This win helped the Aggies improve to 1-1 in conference play with an undefeated record vs Mountain Division opponents. With six games to go, they are still in the hunt for another Mountain West Championship berth.
“This game was huge for us,” Legas said. “If we lose this game what are we playing for? If we lose it seems like we’d be out of the running to win the division.”
Legas explained in an exclusive interview on The Hive Sports podcast over the summer that winning the Mountain West again was the most important goal for the team. The Aggies will look to continue that quest when they head to Fort Collins to play the Colorado State Rams next week. The game will be broadcast at 5 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network.
Featured image via Garett Graf, USU Athletics