Wave Wire Services
INGLEWOOD — Cooper Legas threw his first collegiate pass for a 62-yard touchdown and threw a second touchdown pass in the third quarter to lead Utah State to a 24-13 victory over Oregon State in the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Dec. 18 at SoFi Stadium.
The third-string quarterback throughout the season, Legas completed 11 of 20 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and a 149.8 efficiency rating in place of Logan Bonner, who suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return.
On his first play, which was the Aggies’ first play of the second quarter, Legas threw a long pass to Deven Thompkins, who caught the ball at the Beavers’ 25-yard line and ran into the end zone. Connor Coles’ extra point tied the score, 7-7.
After Everett Hayes kicked a 37-yard field goal for Oregon State on the ensuing drive, the Aggies took the lead for good on their next possession, with an 11-play, 85-yard drive culminated by former Beaver running back Calvin Tyler Jr.’s 15-yard touchdown run.
Coles kicked a 25-yard field goal for Utah State (11-3) on the opening drive of the second half. The Aggies increased their lead to 24-10 on Legas’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bowling with three minutes, 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Hayes kicked a 34-yard field goal with 13:35 left for the fourth quarter’s only points. Utah State drove to the Beavers’ 1-yard line with less than 3 minutes to play but Tyler fumbled with linebacker Omar Speights recovering for Oregon State in the end zone for a touchback.
The Beavers (7-6) opened the scoring on the first drive on receiver Jesiah Irish’s 20-yard touchdown run, one play after Chance Nolan threw a 39-yard pass to Zeriah Beason, Oregon State’s longest play of the game.
The Beavers outgained the Aggies, 415 yards to 383 and led 30:34-29:26 in time of possession but trailed 27-23 in first downs.
Thompkins was selected as the offensive MVP, making six catches for 115 yards, both game highs. The six receptions gave him 102 for the season, breaking the previous school record of 100 set in 2001 by Kevin Curtis when Utah State played 11 games, three less than in 2021.
Defensive end Nick Heninger was selected as the defensive MVP for making seven tackles, including three quarterback sacks and two other tackles for losses.
Thompkins and Heninger received what bowl organizers described as a “big, bold belt” in lieu of a trophies as did the Aggies for the victory.
Legas is a redshirt sophomore from Orem, Utah whose only previous college experience came on the final drive of the Aggies’ 35-10 victory over New Mexico Nov. 26.
Bonner completed six of 10 passes for 68 yards with one interception before being injured. The 68 yards increased his season total to 3,628, breaking the previous school single-season record of 3,567 set by Jordan Love in 2018. Love was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft.
Andrew Peasley was Bonner’s backup throughout the season, but was unable to play due to a shoulder injury he suffered in the New Mexico game.
Tyler ran for a game-high 120 yards on 26 carries, the third-highest total of his 26-game college career.
Tyler graduated from Oregon State in the spring of 2021 with a communications degree and is working on his master’s degree in sports management.
Tyler played in 14 games for the Beavers from 2017-20, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.
Bonner entered the game 18th among Football Bowl Subdivision players in passing yards per game, averaging 273.8.
Nolan completed 21 of 30 passes for 263 yards with one interception for a 137 passer rating.
Utah State’s victory completed one of college football’s best turnarounds in its first season under first-year coach Blake Anderson, who coached Arkansas State to a 51-37 record from 2014-20.
The Aggies’ 10-game improvement from 2020, when they were 1-5, matches Michigan for the largest among FBS teams.
“This journey started over a year ago in less than ideal circumstances,” said Anderson, who was hired Dec. 12, 2020, replacing Gary Andersen, who was fired Nov. 7, 2020, after the team started 0-3.
“We traveled into the season with most of the football community across the country not really expecting much of us but the group in the room held together … [and] never bought into that. We learned how to overcome the odds in almost every situation. Had some adversity along the way, finished the season with a little bit of it as well and it only made us stronger.”