3 takeaways from Utah State’s thrilling 49-45 Air Force victory

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Seeking to go 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 1978, the Aggies made the trip to Colorado Springs on Saturday night to take on the Air Force and its previous triple-option offensive attack with which Utah fans had become very familiar. years.

In a game that had viewers on the edge of their seats throughout, Utah State overcame an 11-point deficit to secure a 49-45 victory over the Falcons, claim their first Mountain West victory of the season and move to 3-0 in the first season under the guidance of head coach Blake Anderson. The high scoring event saw six lead changes and over 1,200 yards of combined attack from both teams.

After taking the lead on a 61-yard touchdown from Calvin Tyler Jr. with just under four minutes to go, senior linebacker Justin Rice came on, removing the ball from Air Force quarterback Haaziq. Daniels to force turnover and allow his team to bring the game to their knees.

The play was revealing of the whole game for a team of Aggies who pulled it off when they needed it despite struggling to contain the Air Force’s offense all night.

“The game didn’t go as I expected at all but when we had to play the guys stepped up,” Anderson said after the game, adding that he hopes to see a giant participation in the game. at Utah State’s home next week. against Boise State.

Here are three takeaways from the Aggies’ third win of the season:

Heroics of Justin Rice

After a performance against North Dakota that saw him named Defensive Player of the Week at Mountain West, Rice likely delivered a performance that will earn him the award for a second straight week.

Rice finished the game with a career-high 14 tackles and an interception to accompany the late forced fumble that was arguably the most important individual game of the night for the Aggies.

Anderson seemed to think the play was actually the biggest of the night.

“The guy is playing a good ball,” Anderson said of his star linebacker. “With Justin, that’s exactly what the guy does. I got used to seeing him make big plays when we needed them most and none of them were bigger than (the forced fumble).

Rice said the game-saving game comes down to her study film of Daniels running the ball.

“We knew they were all-in to score,” Rice said. “All week we talked about the fact that (Daniel’s) ball safety was not very good once he passed the line of scrimmage, so I saw him drop the ball and I just started chasing him. “

Is the quarterback carousel making a comeback?

After performing well throughout the first half, quarterback Logan Bonner took a late punch to the lower back early in the third quarter after throwing a touchdown at Justin McGriff. The shot would see Bonner sit down a few drives before attempting to make a comeback, only for him to throw the game’s only interception by Utah State.

In the two practices Bonner missed, quarterback Andrew Peasley went 7-8 through the air for 94 yards and two touchdowns to go with 28 rushing yards. The immediate impact performance was enough for Anderson and his team to hand over the reins to Peasley after the failed return of the hobbled Bonner.

Peasley would lead the Aggies to 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to overcome an 11-point Air Force lead and secure the win.

While the job still belongs to Bonner when he’s healthy, the junior quarterback’s performance certainly showed just how close he and Bonner are in terms of talent level.

Peasley said his preparation for the game helped him get off the bench and shoot all cylinders quickly.

“I take preparation seriously throughout the week in case things like this happen,” Peasley said. “You don’t want that to happen, but when (Bonner) fell the coach spoke to me and said, ‘Go ahead, run and do your job’, and that’s what j ‘have done.”

Returns become routine

In the first two games, the Aggies found themselves in just double digits to come back and secure the win. For the third game in a row, Utah State was in double digits and for the third game in a row, the Aggies still came out on top.

The victory marks the first time in school history that a football team has overcome double-digit deficits in a three-game victory in a row.

Anderson attributed the previous returns of the season to his team’s superior conditioning and, again, that appeared to be the case as the Aggies seemed to improve as the game progressed.

For Saturday night’s game, Anderson said his players did indeed show that superior conditioning he had referred to often, but they also demonstrated excellent mental conditioning.

“The guys’ willingness to keep playing, not to give up, not to be frustrated, to believe it’s possible, to stay positive, to stay in the system… that mindset is huge,” said Anderson. “But also our willingness to keep playing at an extremely high level of effort. We kept playing at high speed and you could see the fatigue setting in (for the Air Force). I told the guys to stay close and when we get to the fourth quarter it’s going to pay off, and it did.


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