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McCae Hillstead to start for Utah State against San Jose State

The true freshman quarterback has been out due to concussion protocol since Utah State’s game against UConn

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Air Force defensive lineman Caden Blum (87) and defensive end Daniel Grobe (95) pressure Utah State quarterback McCae Hillstead (10) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Air Force Academy, Colo., Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP

McCae Hillstead is back at starting quarterback for Utah State football.

Head coach Blake Anderson announced the news prior to the Aggies’ clash against San Jose State on Saturday in pregame discussion with the radio voice of the Aggies, Scott Garrard.

Hillstead has missed the last two games after being concussed early in the third quarter of Utah State’s win at UConn on Sept. 30.

The former Skyridge High quarterback had taken the job from senior Cooper Legas early in the Aggies’ loss at Air Force earlier in September.

In three games played, along with some garbage time against Idaho State, Hillstead has thrown for 730 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions, while completing nearly 60% of his passes.

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson said earlier in the week that the decision of whether to start Hillstead or Legas was going to be a “brutal one.”

“I think it’s going to be brutally tough,” Anderson said. “You love the fact that you’ve got two guys playing at a high level. We’ll evaluate it every day and we’ve got some time before we have to make final decisions. Neither one of them is making it easy on me that’s for sure.”

Anderson told Gerrard, though, that Hillstead took the full reps this week and looked great, leading to him getting the start against the Spartans.

Legas, meanwhile, was a consummate professional, Anderson said.

Anderson chose Hillstead due, mostly, to his ability to protect the ball when compared to Legas.

“Well leading up to this point you know the one concern, the really the major concern with Coop honestly was turning the ball over or throwing the ball into turnover situations,” Anderson said. “There were three balls against Fresno (State) that night that he threw to the defense. They didn’t catch him, but man they should have been caught and should have been turnovers.

“McCae, he’s been more decisive in his decision making and he’s been more accurate, just in terms of putting the ball in the right spots.”