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Utah State quarterback McCae Hillstead exits UConn game with injury

The true freshman quarterback was escorted to the locker room without his helmet after being knocked out of the game on a roughing the passer penalty.

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James Madison linebacker Aiden Fisher (11) forces Utah State quarterback McCae Hillstead to throw an incomplete pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Logan, Utah. Hillstead left the game against UConn Saturday with an undisclosed injury following a roughing the passer penalty.

Eli Lucero/Herald Journal via AP

Utah State true freshman quarterback McCae Hillstead is out with an injury early in the third quarter of the Aggies’ contest against UConn Saturday.

The Skyridge High standout was escorted off the field to the locker room, sans helmet, after spending time in the medical tent following an injury incurred on roughing the passer penalty early in the third quarter.

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson revealed after the game that Hillstead suffered a concussion, with the timetable for his return unknown.

“He got hit helmet-to-helmet, pretty violently,” Anderson said. “Didn’t really know much about what was going on. We are going to have to see what kind of recovery we are dealing with.”

UConn defensive lineman Eric Watts was called for the penalty after hitting Hillstead late on a play where Hillstead found wide receiver Jalen Royals for a 31-yard highlight reception.

Hillstead struggled early in the game against the Huskies, throwing an interception on his first two pass attempts of the game.

The signal caller settled down late in the first half, however, and found wide receiver Colby Bowman for a 63-yard touchdown just before the end of the half to pull the Aggies with 10 points of the Huskies.

Following Hillstead’s exit early in the third quarter, QB Cooper Legas led the Aggies down the field for another touchdown — a 15-yard pass to Royals — cutting the UConn lead to just three points.

Legas would finish off the Utah State comeback — the Aggies defeated the Huskies 34-33 — and threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns, all to Royals.

“As you can see, Coop was ready for his opportunity and we will prepare to get him ready and when McCae gets back we will deal with it. We won’t put him (Hillstead) in harms way though. We won’t put him out there if there is any chance at all of him going out too quickly.”

Anderson added that he doesn’t believe players should lose jobs due to injury, but conceded that he needs to evaluate film of both Legas and Hillstead going forward.

“Stats sometimes lie to you,” Anderson said. “I want to see if McCae is making good decisions and if Coop is too. And we will go from there. I think your job is in jeopardy all the time if you don’t play the way you are supposed to play.”