Legas leads rally, Larsen ices game in road win for USU over SDSU – Cache Valley Daily

Utah State safety Ike Larsen (6) motions to teammates on defense during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

When Utah State needs a big play, it can always count on Ike Larsen.

The sophomore safety iced the game for the Aggies in their 32-24 double-overtime victory at San Diego State on Saturday, intercepting a Jalen Mayden pass on 4th & 4 after USU had already taken the lead in the second overtime period.

It’s the second time Larsen has made a game-winning play on the road this season, joining his blocked PAT at UConn that preserved Utah State’s 34-33 lead over the Huskies with 40 seconds left in that game. Big-time plays have just come naturally to the Cache Valley native.

“I don’t know that I’m surprised by it anymore,” USU head coach Blake Anderson said after the game. “I’m excited to see it. Nobody wanted to see that ball taken the other direction any more than I did.”

It wasn’t the only big play Larsen made — he also had a big tackle on 2nd & 6 that kept SDSU from getting a first down prior to Larsen’s fourth-down pick and also blew up a fake punt attempt by the Aztecs earlier in the game — but it was a play that made up for a mistake Larsen made earlier in overtime.

On a 2nd & Goal from the 27-yard line, San Diego State got a touchdown in the first overtime — a pass from Mayden to Brionne Penny — as a direct result of a busted coverage that was Larsen’s fault. But being able to make two big plays, including the walk-off INT, on the very next drive was huge for Larsen.

“I let my teammates down, but when we were on the sideline they still all had faith in me. So I think that that helped a lot,” Larsen said. “I just went out there and tried to play the best I can for my team. I ended up making two great plays, but props to my other teammates on the field helping me do that.”

For all the celebration of Larsen’s play in overtime, the game really shouldn’t have gone to overtime in the first place. Utah State held a 17-14 lead and had the ball with 4:45 left on the clock. Instead of running out the clock, USU punted instead.

Well, punt is a generous word. Punter Ryan Marks dropped the snap on his punt from the SDSU 40-yard line that could have pinned San Diego State deep in their own territory. Marks did manage to kick it, but under heavy pressure for what was officially a zero-yard punt. Instead of taking over perhaps inside their own 20, the Aztecs took over on their own 45.

A 49-yard drive later and SDSU was able to kick a chip-shot field goal to tie things up at 17-17 and send the game into OT.

San Diego State’s rally may have just been turnabout on the Aggies for making their own rally in the third quarter, courtesy of Cooper Legas, who had to come into the game for an injured McCae Hillstead for a second time this season (Legas led the Aggies to a come-from-behind win in the aforementioned game at UConn).

Hillstead left the game against the Aztecs late in the first half at a time when the Aggies trailed 7-3. His foot appeared to get caught in the ground while being tackled for a short loss with only a couple of minutes left in the second quarter and Anderson confirmed the true freshman suffered an ankle injury. Legas entered the game for the last couple of plays USU would run in the half.

On Utah State’s opening drive of the second half, Legas led a nine-play, 73 yard touchdown drive, most of that coming on Legas’ 50-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Royals. That gave USU its first lead 10-7. Later, in a drive that spanned the end of the third quarter and the early fourth, the Aggies padded their lead with a 92-yard touchdown drive.

Legas and Terrell Vaughn combined for 56 of those yards on two plays in that long drive. Vaughn had an 18-yard fly sweep (that officially went down as a completed pass) and later Legas threw a deep pass to Vaughn for 38 yards. Davon Booth then capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run.

Extra Notes and Quotes

Legas performs well in another fill-in performance

Having lost his starting job to Hillstead way back in the game against Air Force, Legas has faced a lot of adversity, but persevered in the face of it, now leading multiple comeback wins after coming off the bench for Hillstead. His solid play was one of many factors leading to Saturday’s win and Anderson praised him in front of the team and to the media after the game.

“Super-proud of how Cooper came off the bench,” Anderson said. “This has been tough for him. I just told the team in there, I could not be more proud of a guy. The way he’s handled himself. It’s been tough to be back-and-forth, be the starter, not be the starter. All the things he’s had to deal with. He’s handled it like a pro. He’s been amazing in the locker room. He’s been amazing with McCae. And when he had to come off the bench, did a phenomenal job.”

Special Teams success (or SDSU failure on special teams)

The Aggies were by no means perfect on special teams, what with the Marks dropped snap on a punt and also a missed 38-yard field goal from William Testa, but the overall balance of special teams arguably tipped in USU’s favor. Though one might argue it was San Diego State’s incompetence that led to the Aggies getting that advantage

The Aztecs ran fake kicks twice throughout the game, once on what would have been a 30-yard field goal attempt and later on a punt play on 4th & 3. Utah State snuffed out both, keeping valuable points off the board on one occasion and gifting the offense great field position on the other one.

Utah State actually ran its own fake punt play too, but were able to convert with Anthony Switzer taking a direct snap and gaining four yards on a 4th & 2. That fake occurred during USU’s lead-taking drive in the early third quarter.

USU’s path to bowl eligibility much easier with the win

Had Utah State faltered in this game, the path to bowl eligibility would have required the Aggies to win all three of the remaining games on their schedule — Nevada, Boise State and at New Mexico. Perhaps possible but daunting nevertheless.

“Nobody wants to go into the last three games having to bat a thousand. We needed to get this one,” Anderson said. “I think it’s a huge step in the right direction. A huge step in trying to get to our goal.”

Saturday’s win allows the Aggies a little breathing room, only needing two wins in its final three to reach the six-win benchmark to go bowling.

Stat Leaders

Utah State players are in bold, San Jose State players in italics.


  • Jalen Mayden – 25/39, 265 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
  • Cooper Legas – 11/15, 167 yards, 2 TD
  • McCae Hillstead – 12/16, 62 yards


  • Lucky Sutton – 11 att, 86 yards
  • Davon Booth – 13 att, 77 yards, 1 TD
  • Robert Briggs – 9 att, 59 yards, 1 TD


  • Terrell Vaughn – 8 rec, 91 yards, 1 TD
  • Jalen Royals – 8 rec, 87 yards, 1 TD
  • Kenan Christon – 8 rec, 76 yards, 1 TD
  • Brionne Penny – 4 rec, 57 yards, 1 TD
  • Mark Redman – 5 rec, 44 yards, 1 TD

Defense/Special Teams

  • MJ Tafisi – 13 tackles (9 solo)
  • Cody Moon – 13 tackles (10 solo)
  • Devin Dye – 9 tackles (6 solo)
  • Ike Larsen – 8 tackles (6 solo), 1 TFL, 1 INT
  • Josh Hunter – 7 tackles (6 solo) 1 TFL
  • Zyrus Fiaseu – 6 tackles (3 solo), 3.0 sacks

By the Stats

  • *Utah State was held scoreless in the first quarter, the sixth time that has occurred this season.
  • *The Aggies held SDSU without a point in the first quarter, the first time this season the Aggies have not given up points in the opening quarter.
  • *Utah State was held scoreless in the first quarter, the sixth time that has occurred this season.
  • *Utah State had a season-long 92-yard scoring drive, which was its third 90-yard scoring drive of the season (91 vs. Colorado State, 90 vs. James Madison).
  • *Utah State did not commit a turnover for just the second time this year, along with the Idaho State game. 
  • *Utah State has now won 13 games under head coach Blake Anderson when trailing at some point in the game, including three victories this season.
  • *Utah State has now won three-straight road games against San Diego State
  • *Utah State improved to 7-6 all-time in overtime and 3-2 all-time in double overtime. It was USU’s first overtime game since it lost to New Mexico State 26-20 in the 2017 Arizona Bowl.*The last time USU played a double overtime game was in 2011 when it lost at home to Colorado State 35-34.

*Stat was provided by USU Athletics Media Relations

Mountain West Standings

Standings and results updated though 10:15 p.m. on Nov. 4

Team This Week’s Opponent MW Record Overall Record
#25 Air Force 23-3 L @ Navy 5-0 8-1
UNLV 56-14 W @ New Mexico 4-1 7-2
Fresno State vs Boise State 3-1 7-1
Boise State @ Fresno State 3-1 4-4
Wyoming 24-15 W vs Colorado State 3-2 6-3
San Jose State BYE 3-2 4-5
Utah State 32-24 W @ San Diego State 2-3 4-5
Nevada 27-14 L vs Hawaii 2-3 2-7
San Diego State 32-24 L vs Utah State 1-4 3-6
New Mexico 56-14 L vs UNLV 1-4 3-6
Colorado State 24-15 L @ Wyoming 1-4 3-6
Hawaii 27-14 W @ Nevada 1-4 3-7

NEXT UP FOR UTAH STATE — Nov. 11 vs Nevada (2-7, 2-3 MW)

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