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Just how good is Utah State quarterback Jordan Love?

Numbers don’t tell the complete story

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FILE - Utah State quarterback Jordan Love (10) carries the ball as Colorado State cornerback Marshaun Cameron (26) defends during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Logan, Utah.

Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal via AP

LOGAN — On paper, Utah State junior quarterback Jordan Love has not been elite this season.

ESPN’s total quarterback rating, which takes into consideration such things as expected points added (EPA), action plays and raw QBR, ranks him 89th in the country among signal callers.

In terms of the NCAA’s pass efficiency rating, he is No. 78, with a rating of 133.40.

He is 43rd in the nation in completion percentage (.648) and 68th in passing touchdowns, with six total, at an average of 1.5 per game.

He has also thrown five interceptions, which is tied for the 11th most in the country thus far.

It isn’t all bad, as Love is sixth in the nation in completions per game (26.3) and 14th in passing yards (301.8 ypg) and total offense (318.8).

Still, his numbers through four games are a far cry from those of his breakout 2018 campaign.

Love threw for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns last year, breaking five school records en route to his finish as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which honors the nation’s top quarterback.

It would be easy to dismiss Love after the start of this season, though, even to call him a one-hit-wonder, but there is context to the numbers. 

He threw three of his five interceptions in a single game, the season-opening loss at Wake Forest.

He didn’t play the majority of the second half in Utah State’s blow out of Stony Brook.

He was excellent against a San Diego State defense currently ranked 16th in the country in total defense, and then dealt with harsh weather conditions in the Aggies’ latest win, over Colorado State.

There is also the fact that the numbers themselves don’t tell a complete story, something Utah State head coach Gary Andersen was quick to point out after Love’s outing against the Rams, when he finished 17 of 33 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

“As always, the reflection on the quarterback when he throws a pick is always why did he throw a pick? There is a lot that goes into that,” Andersen said. “When a quarterback makes a mistake, or we all think he makes a mistake, we don’t know the whole picture. Was the route run right? There are a lot of things that can go into that.”

“He did everything he could to turn around and help us win a football game that wasn’t played in the greatest of conditions,” Andersen continued. “Quarterbacks don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I hope it’s raining sideways.’ Catching the ball and fielding the ball and all the things that come with it became very difficult.  We thought he played well, and definitely gave us an opportunity to win the game.”

So just how good is Love then?

According to wide receiver Siaosi Mariner, a graduate transfer from the University of Utah, he is as advertised.

“The hype is real,” said Mariner. “I already knew he was an NFL-caliber quarterback, but he definitely makes some throws that amaze me. I’ve played with a lot of good quarterbacks in my career, but he’s definitely at the top of the list.”

Tight end Caleb Repp, another former Ute, was in agreement and pinpointed Love’s trust in his receivers as the trait that sets him apart.

“He’s not scared to throw the deep ball. He’s done it several times to different players,” Repp said. “It’s fun when you have a quarterback who is not scared to throw it up, and you can just go down there and make a play. That’s the best feeling when you have the opportunity to make a play and be able to impact the game in a big way like that. It’s fun when you have a quarterback that likes doing that.”

It isn’t just Love’s teammates who believe him to be great, however.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has been preparing his team to face Love and the Aggies for going on two weeks now, and as far as he is concerned, Love is as good as they come. 

“He is a very, very good quarterback,” said Orgeron. “One of the top quarterbacks in the country. Has thrown for over 6,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in his career, averaging 38 points a game. He is very smart; knows where to go with the ball. He’s only gotten sacked three times this year. Quick release; can avoid pressure; is able to run the zone read.

“He’s definitely a first-round pick, I do believe, in the NFL and will play in the NFL for a long time. He’s an extremely good quarterback in all areas.”

Ultimately, the most important number is wins, and with Love at quarterback the Aggies have racked up a few. 

Love is 17-6 as Utah State’s starting quarterback, making him the fourth-winningest quarterback in program history. 

This year, he has the team 3-1 overall and undefeated in conference play (2-0), heading into what is likely to be the greatest test this season — a road game in Tiger Stadium against No. 5 LSU.

There is no one the Aggies would rather have lead them into Death Valley.

“We all know he’s a great player,” said Andersen. “Whatever player or position is in front of him, he just fights through it. Jordan is our guy, and as he goes, we go.”

• • •

Aggies on the air

Utah State (3-1) at No. 5 LSU (4-0)

Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. MDT

TV: SEC Network

Radio: KZNS 1280 AM/97.5 FM