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Utah State isn’t bowl eligible without Calvin Tyler Jr. He credits others

Tyler Jr. has been elite for the Aggies this year, for which he credits teammates like John Gentry and Jordan Wilmore

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Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr. celebrates after the team’s win over San Jose State in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Logan, Utah.

Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP

Utah State wouldn’t be bowl eligible if not for Calvin Tyler Jr.

The senior running back scored the game-winning touchdown Saturday night in the Aggies’ 35-31 victory over San Jose State.

“Calvin got it in the end zone when we had to tonight,” Utah State head coach Blake Anderson said. “That last touchdown was huge.”

The victory gave USU six wins this season — the Aggies are 6-5 overall with one game remaining at Boise State — a remarkable feat given the team started the year 1-4 overall, with a blowout loss at home to Weber State on its resume.

Tyler Jr. did more than score one important touchdown, though. Against San Jose State alone, he rushed for a game-high 125 yards and three scores.

(Tyler Jr. is the first Aggie since Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright in 2018 to run for three touchdowns in a single game).

Beyond that, most of Utah State’s success this season can be traced back to strong performances by Tyler Jr. The Aggies have almost always won when he’s played well and lost when he hasn’t.

The Oregon State transfer has rushed for 100-plus yards in all but one USU win this year, in victories over UConn, Air Force, Colorado State, Hawaii and San Jose State.

Tyler Jr., has six 100-yard rushing games this season — that is the most 100-yard rushing games by a USU running back since Joey DeMartino (7) in 2013 — and with 978 yards is just 22 yards shy of becoming the 19th player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

And he has done much of it while dealing with nagging injuries.

Case in point, he went into concussion protocol midway through USU’s win over New Mexico, but still managed to play the very next week against Hawaii and rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown.

“He has been beat up for awhile and just keeps showing up,” Anderson said.

It is that ability to play and play well, even while hampered, that has Anderson believing Tyler Jr. could get a look by the NFL.

“I know he has a passion to play at the next level and wants to show that he has that ability,” Anderson said. “Part of that is showing that you can play through bumps and bruises. That you can play. Availability is a big skill set they want to see, availability and dependability... You look at the body of work over the last month, he has shown up in big big ways.”

Utah State’s offensive line deserves credit. A running back is only as good as his O-line and Tyler Jr. has been quick to praise them this year.

Anderson had praise for that group too Saturday night.

“O-line is doing a great job clearing people out,” he said. “We are getting better. Not a finished product, but man we have gotten better each week.”

After the win over the Spartans, though, Tyler Jr. elected to single out some other players, unsung ones, crediting them for much of his individual success this season.

“I want to do something different right now,” Tyler Jr. said, shrugging off praise for his performance. “I want to thank guys like John Gentry. He hasn’t played a snap at running back this year but he has been the most important teammate this year.

“He don’t understand and it will probably go over his head, but he has been doing everything in practice, working his butt off and motivating me, having the same energy every day, on and off the field. I am so grateful for guys like him and Jordan Wilmore. Same thing. Those guys motivate me. They’ve stuck with me and kept my head lifted up.”

Tyler Jr., for his part, has kept the Aggies in the hunt for bowl eligibility, a goal now achieved with a game to spare.

“A win in this conference is hard... The coaches never gave up on us and this team never gave up on each other,” Tyler Jr. said. “We’ve made mistakes, but you live and learn. That’s life. This team has shown the type of team we are. We’ve got grit, all fight now quit in us. It feels great (to get a bowl game).”