LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It was far from an impressive season-opening performance by the Utah State football team. But the Aggies were still good enough to win.
Logan Bonner threw three touchdown passes, while Calvin Tyler Jr. rushed for 161 yards, as the Aggies overcame an early 14-0 deficit to beat UConn, 31-20.
“It’s a win,” said USU head coach Blake Anderson. “That’s the best thing I can say. Definitely not a polished win by any means. We have a lot of things to work on. We found a way to start from behind yet again. I guess that’s just going to be my tenure as we find a way to dig a hole and then fight our way back. I am proud that the guys didn’t panic. Very similar to last season. We found our way behind 14 and guys kept working and playing.”
“It was the first game and we knew what was going to come with it,” said Tyler. “We knew we were going to get rolling soon. We just had to be patient and trust in coach and the play calling. We knew he was going to get to it, regardless. We had a good game but it could have been better.”
The Huskies, who were 1-11 last season and were 26-point underdogs, raced out to a 14-point first quarter lead after a 1-yard touchdown run by Ta’Quan Roberson and a 13-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Zion Turner to Keelan Marion.
Utah State finally found a spark in the second quarter after Ajani Carter forced a fumble, which was recovered by Daniel Grzesiak.
Bonner then connected with Kyle Van Leeuwen on an 11-yard strike for Utah State’s first touchdown of the season.
Two possessions later, Robert Briggs busted off a 23-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14.
With 1:48 left in the half, Bonner found Justin McGriff in the corner of the end zone to give USU its first lead of the game, 21-14. Connor Coles connected on a 45-yard field goal with one second left in the half, as Utah State scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-14 lead at the half.
Two field goals by Noe Ruelas brought UConn to within four points at 24-20. But Bonner threw his third touchdown of the game to Brian Cobbs to ice the game.
Hunter Reynolds and Ike Larson both had interceptions for the Aggies, who kept the Huskies out of the end zone for the final three quarters.
“We emphasize on tackling,” Ajani Carter said. “We want to get them on the ground first, but if I have the chance to get the ball out, I’m going to try and get the ball out and be play changer. Give the offense a chance to go and score again.”
Utah State racked up 542 yards of total offense, 281 of which came on the ground.
Bonner finished the day completing 20 of 29 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler had 161 yards rushing on 33 carries. Cobbs led the Aggies in receiving with seven catches for 78 yards.
Nathan Carter led UConn’s ground attack with 190 yards on 20 carries.
“Didn’t really know what to expect from UConn,” Anderson said about the Huskies, who were playing its first game under new head coach Jim Mora. “They were big. Obviously, were well coached. Did not make a lot of mistakes today. I hate that they had their quarterback go down. I hope that’s not a season-ending injury. That did not look good. Prayers go up for him. You hate to see that for a competitor like him. You could tell he was going to impact their team in a big, big way. I hope that’s something he can get well and healthy and still play for those guys.”
MJ Tafisi led Utah State in tackles with 10, including 2.0 tackles for loss.
Utah State (1-0) next heads to Tuscaloosa to take on #1 Alabama on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.