Utah State had the only winning streak it’s ever known this season snapped by Wyoming with a demoralizing 28-14 victory. And while an increasing number of injuries tempts one to excuse this loss, the fact remains that it happened and will have an impact on the season going forward. Reality is reality and the Aggies must either win in the face of adversity or go down as a team most would prefer to forget.
Here are some observations on Saturday’s loss.
No downfield passing attack
In his first start, true freshman Bishop Davenport did pretty much the bare minimum for the position, much like he did against Colorado State. Unfortunately, the bare minimum doesn’t cut it against a more established defense.
Per PFF, Davenport completed all passes he attempted that traveled less than 10 yards down the field, garnering an NFL passer rating of 92.56 on those throws. Solid. On throws that did make it 10-plus yards down the field, well, it could have been better. Per PFF, Davenport was 1-for-10 on those throws for just 10 yards and an interception.
It’s worth noting after saying all those things that there should be no expectation that Davenport would be up to slinging the ball all over the field and looking like vintage Logan Bonner, Jordan Love or Chuckie Keeton. He’s a true freshman that didn’t take real reps the entire regular season up until the middle of the Colorado State game last week. But while you can make credible and understandable excuses for Davenport’s performance, you can’t sugar-coat what it means for an offense’s ability to move the ball.
How many injuries can you take?
The list of injuries for Utah State is reaching a comical number. Heading into Saturday’s game the Aggies were missing their top three quarterbacks, four defensive linemen, a defensive back, and a rotation offensive lineman just to list a few positions impacted. Once the game started the attrition continued. MJ Tafisi, Daniel Grzesiak and NyNy Davis both left with injuries, among others, leaving more position groups impacted.
Run game (mostly) grinds to a halt
Over the last three games Utah State had averaged 218.3 rushing yards per game. That effectiveness in the ground game powered the resurgent Aggies to a pair of wins and was the key to victory on Saturday. Unfortunately, aside from one drive, USU never got its ground game going good enough to generate points.
Aside from the Aggies’ 62-yard touchdown drive early in the third quarter, they gained just 51 yards with a 1.79 yards per carry average. Had that been the game average (and it effectively was aside from a three-minute stretch in one quarter), it would be the worst average since last year’s BYU game (0.6 per carry). It also shouldn’t surprise anyone that the win-loss record with that kind of yards/carry average for USU is 3-21 since 2000. And while this game does not fall under that umbrella, breaking the run game down and throwing out an outlier gives a good idea as to how hard USU made winning for itself by not being able to run.
Wyoming explosive in rush and passing attacks
The Cowboys ran 76 plays on offense against the Aggies, averaging 6.6 yards per play. A big part in averaging such a large number is that Wyoming had 18 “big” plays, defined as runs of 10-plus yards and passes for 15-plus yards. In other words, nearly one in four Wyoming plays were explosive ones. What’s perhaps even crazier is that 13 of those big plays came on the ground, meaning that 13 of the Cowboys’ 50 rushes (or 26 percent) went for 10 or more yards.
By the Stats
- Stephen Kotsanlee had five punts of 50-plus yards with a long of 59. He was just two 50-yard punts away from tying the single-game NCAA record of seven, set by Mark Mariscal in 2002.
- Kotsanlee averaged 51.4 yards per punt on seven punts, one of just three players this season to average at least 50 yards per punts with at least seven punts, joining New Mexico’s Aaron Rodriguez (who’s done it twice) and Memphis’ Joe Doyle.
- With his 83 yards on Saturday, Calvin Tyler Jr. has now run for 717 yards this season, which ranks 20th in FBS. His 154 rushing attempts ranks eighth.
- Utah State dropped to 0-5 in games where Tyler has fewer than 19 carries. USU is 3-0 in games where Tyler gets at least 19 carries (33 in win vs UConn, 19 in win vs Air Force, 24 in win vs Colorado State).
- Saturday is the 16th time since 2000 that Utah State has allowed multiple 100-yard rushers. Wyoming has done it the most against the Aggies with three instances (this year, 2021 and 2018). Other teams that have done it against USU include Air Force (2021, 2017), San Diego State (2016), Boise State (2009), Hawaii (2009), Nevada (2009), Fresno State (2007), Louisiana Tech (2007), Oklahoma (2007) and Alabama (2004).
- After catching 24 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns in a three-game stretch earlier this year, Brian Cobbs has just eight catches for 69 yards and no TDs in the last two games
- Despite his struggles the last two games, Cobbs is on pace to become the fourth Aggie since 2000 to catch 65 passes and record at least 800 receiving yards.
- As a team, the Aggies had 104 yards on 26 pass attempts, good for just 4.0 yards per attempt. For USU, it’s the 13th-lowest yards per attempt average since 2000 in games where the team attempted at least 25 passes and is 24th-lowest among all games since 2000.
- Utah State allowed Davenport to be sacked six times on Saturday. It’s the ninth time the Aggies have given up six or more sacks in a game. USU is 1-8 in those contests, the only win being against Colorado State in 2021.