Legas, Cobbs, Tyler emerging as stars – Cache Valley Daily

LOGAN – Utah State claimed victory on the gridiron for the first time in 42 days on Saturday with its defeat of Air Force. The Aggies finally overcame shortcomings, eliminated mistakes, and played winning football when winning mattered most. Aside from the story of victory, these are a few notes and trends from Saturday’s contest.

Legas great all-around

It’d be hard to say at this point that the insertion of Cooper Legas into the starting quarterback spot and Utah State’s offensive renaissance is completely coincidental. The offense has gone from a sputtering, turnover-laden mess to a solidly efficient unit. You can’t pin all of this recent success on Legas, given that the Bonner-led offense began the resurgence in yards production against UNLV (419 yards in that game, which is more than the 414 USU gained in the win over Air Force). But Legas hasn’t been a bystander in all of this. He’s helped drive the improvements that led Utah State to break the losing skid.

In two starts Legas has completed 68.5 percent of his passes and tallied 531 total yards (403 passing, 128 rushing) and six total touchdowns (four passing, two rushing). Bonner, in his post-injury state, completed only 56.9 percent of his passes and had six total touchdowns to eight interceptions. It’s clear that at this point, Legas is the man to pilot the ship.

One major threat Legas adds to the offense is his mobility. The rushing yards Legas gains as a result of his ability to run are solid enough, but he’s been able to use them in the passing game too. He’s pulled multiple completions out of plays that normally would be sacks.

“Cooper loves to run,” USU head coach Blake Anderson said. “He’s very comfortable in that setting. He’s gonna continue to get better. It does open up the field for us in a way that we just didn’t have the ability to do with Logan being a little bit limited in his mobility. It’s gonna look different. We’re balanced. We’re using everybody. The extra set of legs was really, really helpful in some key situations. And he just created a few times. They covered us down, they dropped people into coverage and he put his foot in the ground and made plays.”

Cobbs’ recent dominance

The biggest overlap between Bonner starting the offense’s resurgence against UNLV and Legas continuing it against BYU and Air Force is the presence and production of Brian Cobbs. For the whole season, Cobbs has 36 receptions for 473 yards and four touchdowns. His last three games account for 24 of those receptions, 315 of those yards and three of those touchdowns. Two-thirds of Cobbs’ production this season has come in half of his games.

While not the only receiver producing at a higher rate these last few games (Terrell Vaughn has 15 receptions for 172 yards and three TDs in the last three games), Cobbs is proving himself to be Legas’ most reliable target, and his leadership is impressing the coaching staff.

That dude’s been a leader since day one,” Anderson said of Cobbs. “He’s been more and more vocal, but mainly he leads by example. He does everything right.”

Reviving the run game with Calvin Tyler and Legas

Utah State’s run game has struggled for most of Blake Anderson’s tenure with the school. It didn’t start out that way though. In the first four games of 2021, the Aggies averaged 5.2 yards per carry and had 200+ rushing yards in three of those four games. In the next 14 games, however — spanning the rest of 2021 and the first four games of 2022 — USU averaged a paltry 3.1 yards per carry and only 124.6 yards on the ground per game.

This complete stalling of the run game is perhaps reaching its end. In the last two games, the Aggies are averaging 4.6 yards per carry, gaining 204 yards at BYU and 199 yards against Air Force.

All parties involved in the run game have stepped up their game. Calvin Tyler Jr., the leader in the running-back room, has posted his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games since that early four-game stretch in 2021. Legas is adding his own element to the run game.

Defense returns to getting turnovers

In the first three games, USU’s defense forced seven turnovers. And while it didn’t help too much in getting wins (UConn being the exception), it was something the defense could hang its hat on. They were giving the offense extra chances for points, even if the offense wasn’t fully capitalizing on those chances.

Turnovers dried up, though, in the games against UNLV and BYU. The Aggies had zero takeaways in both of those games, a significant shortcoming considering the Aggies gave away nine turnovers in those contests.

Utah State finally got back into the turnover business, and it couldn’t have chosen a better time. On two Air Force drives in the second half, the Falcons were threatening to either re-take the lead or cut the Aggies’ hard-fought advantage. First, with USU leading 27-24, AFA made headway into Aggie territory only for Ajani Carter to force a fumble. Then, with the Aggies up 34-24 and time running out, Carter again came up huge with an interception, stealing a valuable possession away and putting pressure on Air Force’s offense.

It was a relieving return to form for players like Carter who pride themselves on these forced turnovers.

Every week I try to be a playmaker,” Carter said. “Us defensive backs try to be playmakers and take the ball away. That’s our job. We knew it was going to be a big deal to get turnovers on Air Force. We needed every chance we could get.”

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