Amid the disappointment of a hard-fought loss to Fresno State on Friday night, Utah State coach Blake Anderson was optimistic.

His team had played, in his eyes, arguably their most complete game of the season. Not only that, but the Aggies had also competed all four quarters, throwing off the first-quarter struggles that had plagued them in each of their previous FBS matchups this season.

Aggies on the air


Utah State (3-4)
at San Jose State (2-5)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
CEFCU Stadium, San Jose
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Aggies Sports Network

“I think we showed just what we’re capable of,” Anderson said.

Those weren’t the only reasons Anderson was optimistic, though.

No, despite facing one of the best teams in the Mountain West Conference in Fresno State, after having previously played a collection of opponents that includes multiple ranked teams (No. 22 Air Force and No. 24 Iowa), a nearly ranked team (James Madison), a MW team that has now pulled off one of the more remarkable wins of the season (Colorado State over Boise State) and a rising FCS opponent (Idaho is now 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Sky), the Aggies are healthy, despite in-game scares to offensive lineman Teague Andersen and safety Ike Larsen.

“For the most part, I think we’re relatively healthy considering everything,” Anderson said. “Most of the guys that went down (to injury) went back out to play. Nothing (happened) that looked significant.”

Anderson noted that Larsen simply had the wind knocked out of him on special teams in the fourth quarter.

Not only did the Aggies avoid serious injury (unlike when Max Alford and Stephen Kotsanlee were dealt season-ending injuries against Iowa and Colorado State), but they appear primed to get healthier going forward this season.

Anderson revealed his expectation that both quarterback McCae Hillstead and offensive lineman Cole Motes will be back for the Aggies when they play at San Jose State on Saturday.

“I think we will have everybody (who played against FSU available) and I would think we will get Cole and McCae both back,” Anderson said. “And maybe even a little bit healthier on the offensive line.”

With the probability of a return by Hillstead, the question of who will be Utah State’s starting quarterback was raised again, and for good reason. The Aggies have won games started by both Hillstead and Cooper Legas this season, with both having notable performances (Hillstead against James Madison, Legas against Fresno State).

Anderson wouldn’t say anything definitive about whether he will start Legas or Hillstead against San Jose State, noting instead that Legas has done what he was supposed to do.

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“It’ll be hard,” Anderson said. “And that’s his (Legas’) whole job. To make it difficult. As usual I’m not going to make any statements on what we’re doing there. Either one of those guys can play next week. (My decision) will be based off of just really dissecting the tape and seeing exactly what kind of decision making we’ve got. But (Legas) did everything I needed to do. I’ve been really pleased with how he’s responded.

“I just want to want to put the guy out there that gives the best chance to win, regardless. (Legas) did what he needed to do and gave us a chance to win and that is something I’m super proud of.”