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Utah State falls on the road to Air Force

The Aggies struggled to stop the Falcons in Colorado Springs

Idaho State v Utah State Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Utah State struggled mightly against Air Force in Colorado Springs as the Falcons rushed for 344 yards and running back Owen Burk went for 110 yards on 15 carries but the key player for Air Force was Emmanuel Michel, who rushed for 106 yards on 28 carries and also rushed for three touchdowns. Air Force had two more players rush for over 50 yards in John Lee Eldridge III (58 yards, one touchdown) and quarterback Zach Larrier (10 rushes, 56 yards, one touchdown). Meanwhile Utah State only had one player rush for 40 yards in Rahsul Faison, and no players rushed for a touchdown. Robbert Briggs was banged up throughout the week and the Aggies lost linebacker Max Alford against Iowa in the season opener.

Cooper Legas was benched in the second quarter after starting the game 2 for 7 and turning the ball over twice. In his place freshman McCae Hillstead took over after the 22 points that Air Force put up in the first quarter. Hillstead would go 18 for 27 (66%) for 202 yards and throw for three touchdowns, averaging 7.5 per pass attempt. That would help Utah State to stay in the game later but the damage was already done after the first quarter.

Utah State’s receivers were able to spread it out a little more in this game as three players caught touchdowns and went for over 50 yards in Jalen Royals (4 receptions, 52 yards, 1 touchdown), Terrell Vaughn (6 receptions, 61 yards, 1 touchdown) and Micah Davis (4 receptions, 84 yards, 1 touchdown).

Team Statistics

First downs: Air Force: 24 first downs; USU: 20 first downs

Third down conversions: Air Force: 9-13 (69%); USU: 3-11 (27%)

Total yards: Air Force: 428 yards; USU: 302

Passing yards: USU: 248; Air Force: 84

Rushing yards: Air Force: 344 yards; USU: 54 yards

Penalties: USU: 4-17; Air Force: 6-60

Turnovers: Air Force: 0; USU: 2

Time of possession: Air Force: 38:40; USU: 21:20

Players of the Game

Offensive player of the game: The offensive player of the game is freshman quarterback McCae Hillstead, who in his first true action threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns without any turnovers. Hillstead gave a spark to Utah State that kept that game closer than it should have been.

Defensive player of the game: The defensive player of the game is the only one to make a tackle for loss for the Aggies against Air Force, linebacker Cole Joyce, who made 11 total tackles (4 solo) and had a sack and tackle for loss.

Overall Thoughts

This was not a good game for Utah State. On any level. Air Force hung 22 on the Aggies in the first quarter alone. The Falcons scored a total of 39 points and forced Cooper Legas onto the bench after he committed two turnovers. Air Force rushed for 344 yards and the Utah State defense was only able to get one tackle for loss, which means that Air Force was able to create space to run the ball. Utah State did not get a single rushing touchdown and their top rusher only went for 40 yards, which created imbalance for the offense.

One of the glaring statistics is that Air Force had close to 17 more minutes of possession than Utah State. The other glaring statistic that explains the first is that Utah State went an absolutey atrocious 3-11 on third down, which means that several of Utah State’s possessions were very quick and the defense was back on the field unable to stop the Air Foce ground game.

Air Force completely exposed a Utah State team that is not only facing injuries but could now be facing questions at quarterback. Things will not get any easier for Utah State against an undefeated James Maddison team that is looking to showcase itself. Utah State will face James Maddison at 5:00 PM PST (6:00 Mountain Time) at Maverick Stadium.