Can A Quarterback Change Help Fix Utah State’s Slow Starts?

Sep 18, 2023, 1:26 PM

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LOGAN, Utah – A quarterback change is just one step in the process as Utah State prepares to face second-year FBS opponent James Madison this weekend.

Head coach Blake Anderson, junior cornerback Jaiden Francois, and junior tight end Broc Lane spoke with the media ahead of Utah State’s home matchup against James Madison on Saturday, September 23.

RELATED: Blake Anderson Not Interested In Creating Quarterback Controversy


The McCae Hillstead for Cooper Legas quarterback change came after Legas and the Aggie offense stumbled out of the gates for the third straight contest.

Legas opened the game with two turnovers amid a 2-for-7 passing performance that ultimately led to his benching. Citing poor decisions and a lack of confidence in his reads and throws, Anderson felt Hillstead gave USU its best chance.

RELATED: ‘Eliminating Mistakes’ Focus For Utah State Looking Forward

“For whatever reason, he’s (Legas) not comfortable in the pocket right now. What I saw from McCae was quick decisions, working through progressions, and making good decisions… I think he’ll only get better with the reps he’s going to get as a starter.”

Hillstead and Anderson will spend the week developing a game plan in hopes of getting the offense on track earlier in games.

RELATED: Utah State Hopes To White Out Maverik Stadium Against James Madison

“We dug ourselves a hole and ended up in a position where we didn’t get to play the game we wanted,” Anderson said. “We have not played well in the first quarter and we’ve gotta do a better job. I know we’re inexperienced but we’ve got to grow up and got to be ready from the opening kick. We can’t wait until the second quarter to start playing.”

Make James Madison Uncomfortable

Taking on an undefeated James Madison team with nothing to lose will be a difficult ask for Utah State.

Anderson said that James Madison is a defense that thrives off of chaos and pressuring the quarterback. The Aggies will have to find a way to keep the Dukes defense off-balance on Saturday night.

RELATED: Falcon Ground Game Carries Air Force To Win Over Utah State

“They’ve had a lot of lost yardage plays. They sack the quarterback as much as anybody,” Anderson, the Aggies offensive play-caller warned. “It is important that even if we have a lost yardage play… we don’t give up the possibilities of still running the ball.”

Fans can expect Utah State’s offense to rely on a variety of play calls to keep the James Madison defense honest. “Tempo is gonna have to be a part of it. We’ve got to run the ball, move the pocket, and play action… We have to keep them off balance.”

Defensively, a USU team that got ‘pushed around’ against Air Force expects to answer the bell against the Dukes.

“For us to go out and not play to our physical standard is disappointing,” corner Jaiden Francois. “Trust me, it won’t happen again.”

Aggie Depth Report

  • After not practicing all week, safety/linebacker Anthony Switzer was able to play against Air Force. “I feel like we were lucky to get him out of the game unscathed,” Anderson said on Monday. “He should be completely healthy.”
  • Starting running back Robert Briggs did not play against Air Force, but Anderson expects him and backup running back Davon Booth to be ready to go against James Madison.
  • “Most of it is bumps and bruises. Nobody that should be out unless we have some type of recurring injury or issue in practice this week,” Anderson stated.

Utah State Aggies vs. James Madison Dukes

Saturday, September 23 – Maverik Stadium, Logan, UT

RADIO: Aggie Sports Network

• Play-by-Play: Scott Garrard

• Analyst: Kevin White

• Online: KSL Sports Zone

TV: KJZZ / Mountain West Network

• Play-by-Play: Dave Fox, Alema Harrington, Frank Dolce

• Xfinity (Utah): Ch. 3/HD657

• DirecTV (Utah): Ch. 14

• DISH (Utah): Ch. 14

• Stream: utahstateaggies.com/watch/

Following The Aggies With KSL Sports Zone

Utah State (1-2) returns to Logan where they will host the James Madison Dukes (3-0) at Maverik Stadium on Saturday, September 23. This will be the first meeting between James Madison and the Aggies. USU will complete a two-game series with the Dukes when they travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia in 2025. The Dukes ascended to the FBS level for the 2022-23 academic year. This is their second season in the Sun Belt Conference.

USU football games are found on KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard and former Aggie quarterback Kevin White (1988-89) on the call.

KSL Sports coverage of Utah State University Athletics can be found here. 

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Can A Quarterback Change Help Fix Utah State’s Slow Starts?