Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

Air Force

Mountain West Football: Midseason Team Grades

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Utah State Aggies

Oct 15, 2022; Fort Collins, Colorado, USA; Utah State Aggies offensive lineman Wade Meacham (79) sings with his teammates to celebrate their 17-13 victory over the Colorado State Rams at Sonny Lubick Field at Canvas Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: C- | Defense: C+ | Special Teams: B | Meeting/Exceeding Expectations: C

Utah State had about the worst September any Aggies fans could imagine, suffering blowouts against Alabama (understandable) and Weber State (much less understandable) before a bye week enabled them to correct a few things and climb back into the chase for the Mountain West crown.

The defending champions have pulled themselves together, but there’s still work to be done. Despite a quarterback switch on offense, turnovers have plagued the Aggies all season long as they’ve had at least two giveaways in five of seven games to this point in the year. Utah State has rediscovered some of its explosiveness thanks to Calvin Tyler Jr., Justin McGriff, and Brian Cobbs, who’ve combined for 19 plays of 20 or more yards, but Deven Thompkins has nonetheless proven as difficult to replace as everyone expected.

For the most part, though, the experienced offensive line has given this unit a chance to compete, allowing a stuff rate of 15.8% (38th in FBS) and a sack rate of 3% (18th). Youngsters like running back Robert Briggs and guard Weylin Lapuaho have seized opportunities to be the foundation of future Aggies offenses, too, while contributing in the present. The aggregate numbers for points per drive (1.8, 95th), available yards percentage earned (42.2%, 89th), and drive yards per offensive play (5.42, 87th) are still below average, but Anthony Tucker’s offense could be on the upswing if the injury bug doesn’t derail them any further.

The defense has done a couple of things well, too, but that Aggies unit has yet to play their A-game. For one, their generated havoc has been largely one-sided since their 24.5% stuff rate ranks 15th in the country but their 5.2% sack rate puts them at 86th overall, and the 31 plays of 20 or more yards they’ve allowed is more than any team in the conference save for Hawaii. In a similar vein, the Aggies have allowed an opponent completion rate of only 53.8%, good enough to rank second in the Mountain West, but they’ve given up a conference-high 14 passing touchdowns in spite of generating an interception rate of 4%. It’s been very boom or bust, so the name of the game in the second half of the campaign is finding more of the former and avoiding more of the latter.

Special teams, thankfully, has remained an asset. Connor Coles has been fine as a kicker, making 6-of-8 field goals to date, while punter Stephen Kotsanlee has put 14 of his 35 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. The real strength has been in the return game, where Terrell Vaughn has done a pretty solid Savon Scarver impression and Cooper Jones has been a net plus while returning punts.

Head of the Class: Calvin Tyler Jr., RB

Though he’s found the end zone just once in 2022, there’s little doubt Tyler Jr. has picked up where he left off a year ago and helped lead the Aggies’ resurgence over the past few weeks. He’s run for over 100 yards four times and trails only Air Force’s Brad Roberts with 634 rushing yards altogether.

One Player Deserving of More Attention: MJ Tafisi, LB

Few players in the Mountain West have been as busy on defense as the Utah transfer has been for the Aggies. He’s picked up ten or more tackles in five of seven games for Utah State and has a team-high eight tackles for loss, and his 75.2 PFF overall grade currently ranks third among linebackers in the conference.

Midseason Grades By Team

Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming

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