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In praise of Cooper Legas

The Utah State quarterback continues to come through the the Aggies when called upon, even after multiple benchings.

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Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas (5) looks downfield as he scrambles with the ball against Boise State in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Boise, Idaho.

Steve Conner, AP

Once again, Cooper Legas came through for Utah State football.

Midway through the Aggies’ clash with San Diego State Saturday night, a game upon which USU’s postseason chances likely hung, Legas was called upon to replace starting quarterback McCae Hillsead.

Hillstead had suffered an ankle injury that, per USU head coach Blake Anderson, was “severe enough that we didn’t feel like he could be mobile in the second half, and with that (defensive) front and how they were blitzing, (I) just did not think he could protect himself.”

Enter Legas, with Utah State trailing 7-3 on the road against the Aztecs in a “must-win” game.

What did the senior do? Led Utah State to a thrilling 32-24 double-overtime win over SDSU.

Legas was nearly flawless, too, completing 11 of 15 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while not throwing an interception.

His 50-yard strike to wide receiver Jalen Royals in the third quarter gave Utah State its first lead of the game and his 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Terrell Vaughn sent an overtime game into double overtime, where the Aggies would pull out the win.

Utah State’s former starting quarterback, both the latter half of last season and to start this year, Legas has come in for an injured Hillstead multiple times now this season and both times he has led the Aggies to victory, first at UConn and now at San Diego State.

The win over the Aztecs was different, though, per Anderson.

For one, Legas was turnover free, the biggest issue Anderson has had with his veteran quarterback and the main reason why Anderson has gone with the true freshman Hillstead multiple times this year.

“(Tonight) is the first time he (Legas) hasn’t had a turnover since Idaho State,” Anderson said. “And that’s been the one thing that we absolutely had to get out of him and we got it in the most critical time.”

More than that though, Legas has fought through the disappointment of being benched multiple times in favor of Hillstead and through it all has been committed to the team, Anderson said.

As he described, Legas has handled the demotions “like a pro.”

“This has been tough for him,” Anderson said. “I just told the team in (the locker room) that I couldn’t be more proud of the way he’s handled himself. It’s been tough, the back and forth, to be the starter and then not be the starter, all the things he’s had to deal with.

“But man, 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, he did a phenomenal job. He did exactly what I thought he would do. He came in and played played really, really well. ... I really could not be more proud of the guy. ... I love the kid to death and I’m proud he was able to do what he did tonight to get the win.”