Utah State exorcises their demons, win shootout vs Air Force, 49-45

Utah State exorcises their demons, win shootout vs Air Force, 49-45

Utah State

Utah State exorcises their demons, win shootout vs Air Force, 49-45


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Utah State is 3-0 for the first time since 1978

In a wild game where both teams combined for more than 1,200 yards of total offense, Utah State ultimately emerged victorious from Colorado Springs against the feisty Air Force Falcons. Punts were rare and points were given freely by each team’s defense, so the contest was determined by who could outgun the other.

The Aggies ended an embarrassing two-game skid to the Falcons in which they were outscored 66-14 in those conference tilts. The Aggies may not have stopped the triple-option offense, but they did the next best thing and torched the flyboys with superior firepower. USU’s QBs and receiving corps lit up their defenders to the tune of 457 yards and five TDs through the air, a solid counter to a Falcon squad that pounded the Aggies on the ground to the tune of 400+ yards and TDs.

This game firmly puts 2020 in the rearview mirror for Utah State. The Aggies have scored more points in the last two games (97) than they scored in the entirety of the abbreviated six-game season last year (93). Though the defense still has some struggles in giving up large run plays, the turnovers have been coming more frequently with the addition of LB Justin Rice to the team. The man simply has a knack for creating havoc plays when the Aggies need them, and he came through in the clutch to seal the win for the visitors from Logan.

The game started with Air Force burning the Aggies through the air. Falcon QB Haaziq Daniels connected with TE Kyle Patterson for a major gain that got the Falcons inside the red-zone. After a pitched ball that was ruled a fumble and then reversed in short order, the Falcons found the endzone on their opening drive. It was not a promising start for the Aggie defense.

With the defense bowing up a bit better on the next Falcon series, the Aggies found themselves in a 10-0 hole. QB Logan Bonner then orchestrated a double-digit play, 71-yard drive to cut the deficit to three. On the next Aggie series, Bonner again led a long scoring drive and found WR Brandon Bowling for a quick strike, giving USU their first lead of the night 13-10. The XP was missed, however.

For the remainder of the first half, Air Force flat out abused USU’s secondary on third down.

Daniels connected with WR Micah Davis for a 56-yard TD in which SS Shaq Bond just barely fell behind. Unfortunately for the Aggies, it appears he is not quite 100%.

With even more bad news, USU’s offense didn’t score again the remainder of the half, and this secondary gave up a multitude of large scoring plays. Ags went down 24-13 at half after a promising quick drive ended at midfield with a turnover on downs.

Once the second half started, Bonner made a critical pass play to WR Justin McGriff for a TD to keep it close. However, the QB sustained a late hit after the whistle by an Air Force defender. With the signal caller clearly shaken up and in pain, QB Andrew Peasley would take over for most of the remaining time in the game.

After Air Force struck back with a score to go up 31-20, Peasley showcased his skillset and orchestrated an efficient drive, which was capped by TE Carson Terrell nabbing a five-yard grab in the endzone.

With five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Aggie defense forced a dramatic stop on 4th down. Daniels kept the ball and was stopped mere inches from the marker by USU defender Cash Gilliam in what would prove to be a pivotal play in the game. USU’s defense had been gashed repeatedly and their fatigue in defending the triple option was obvious. To their credit, they never wilted and came up with a critical stop in order to give the humming Aggie offense another scoring opportunity, which they promptly took advantage of.

In a play that would have likely failed under other circumstances, Peasley played hero ball and threw off his back foot to find Brandon Bowling for a 36-yd TD. Peasley had nowhere to go and it appeared he was just throwing the ball away, but his quickness and strong arm notched another score instead, giving the Aggies another lead after being down for most of the half. Bowling has arguably emerged as the top slot receiver on the team, accumulating nine receptions for 136 yards and 2 TDs.

Heading into the fourth quarter, USU was only down four points, but they would yield another long scoring drive to the Falcons. Daniels showed just how dangerous he is as a playmaker and scampered 39 yards for a score to put his team up 45-34. Nobody on the defense was able to tackle him and it appeared USU would not be able to get any more stops after being pushed around for much of the evening. The Cadets had an answer for every explosive Aggie play.

Luckily for Utah State, WR Deven Thompkins would come to the rescue. The Aggies unleashed yet another explosive drive and refused to quit. Peasley launched a long pass and connected with Thompkins for a 72-yard TD strike. The momentum had shifted once again and the Cadets were becoming visibly flustered at their inability to put the away the Aggies. Further rubbing salt in the wound, Peasley converted on the 2-pt try to get the Ags within three, 42-45. USU was clearly on the verge of an upset with plenty of time to go.

USU’s defense got another stop on third and short to force a Falcons punt, a godsend considering they seemingly never had to punt for most of the contest. The defense was playing with more vigor and energy knowing the Aggie offense would get one more opportunity to go ahead with a score. The Falcons were completely unable to stop this offense and everyone knew it.

After a gutsy and successful 4th down shovel pass to Terrell, Peasley handed the ball off to  RB Calvin Tyler. He capped the offense’s record-setting night with a 60+ yard rush for the final score. Air Force was about to run out of answers and USU was about to win the game.

On a last gasp drive, Daniels tried to get the Falcons in scoring position, but LB Justin Rice had other plans. Though Daniels was moving, Rice stripped the ball cleanly from the QB and USU defender Monte McGary fell on top of it to secure the turnover and the win for the Aggies.

A crazy night with a crazy ending indeed.

Final Takeaways and Moving Forward

This game will likely define the season for Utah State.

They are not only 3-0, but it’s the first time in school history they have won three in a row after being down by double digits at halftime in each of their games. This team has heart to spare and they never got down on themselves and folded. Past Aggie teams almost certainly would have quit, but not this one, and that’s so much more than what we saw in 2020. This coaching staff has worked a genuine miracle in Logan, Utah.

Justin Rice could very well go on to win Mountain West defensive player of the year. He got an interception to stop a scoring drive from the Falcons and he stripped the ball at the end of the game to kill any potential comeback, too. The comparison to Zach or Nick Vigil is completely justified and he may even surpass the Aggie greats at LB. He’s a tackling machine and he comes up big every time the Aggies need him to play out of his mind.

Virtually nobody predicted the Aggies would win more than three games this year. The most optimistic predictions had the Aggies coming out of their opening five-game gauntlet at 2-3 and then possibly getting to a bowl with a 6-6 record. This would have been welcome after the disastrous 2020 campaign, but this cathartic win over Air Force completely resets the expectations for the season.

The Aggies are certainly a good team. They have a chance to show in the coming weeks that they can be genuinely great. Getting a win over perennial Mountain West power Boise State or the currently undefeated BYU Cougars (or dare I say both) may even be enough to help this squad reach double-digit wins on the year. If the chips fall correctly, a shot at a conference title is not out of the question.

Enjoy the ride, Aggie fans. This season is just getting started and the sky indeed appears to be the limit.








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