Utah State Football: Aggies can’t bowl without Calvin Tyler Jr

Utah State would not have qualified for the Bowl without Calvin Tyler Jr.

The senior running back scored the game-winning touchdown in the Aggies’ 35-31 win over San Jose State on Saturday night.

“Calvin made it in the end zone when we had to tonight,” said Blake Anderson, Utah State head coach. “The last touchdown was huge.”

The win gave USU six wins this season — the Aggies are 6-5 overall with one game remaining at Boise State — a remarkable feat considering the team started the year 1-4 overall, with a blowout loss at home against Weber State on his resume.

However, Tyler Jr. scored more than one important touchdown. Against San Jose State alone, he rushed for 125 yards and three points.

(Tyler Jr. is the first Aggie to run for three touchdowns in a single game since Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright in 2018).

Additionally, most of Utah State’s success this season can be attributed to strong performances from Tyler Jr. The Aggies almost always won when he played well and lost when he didn’t.

The Oregon State transfer has rushed for 100+ yards in all but one USU win this year, in wins over UConn, Air Force, Colorado State, Hawaii and San Jose State.

Tyler Jr. has six 100-yard rushing games this season — that’s the most 100-yard rushing games by a USU since Joey DeMartino (7) in 2013 — and at 978 yards, he’s just 22 yards short of the umpire to become the 19th player in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

And he’s done a lot of it while struggling with nagging injuries.

Case in point: He suffered a concussion midway through USU’s win over New Mexico, but still made it through to play Hawaii the very next week, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s been beaten up for a while and keeps showing up,” Anderson said.

It’s that ability to play and play well even when disabled that makes Anderson think Tyler Jr. could get a look from the NFL.

“I know he has a passion for playing at the next level and he wants to show that he has that ability,” Anderson said. “Part of it shows that you can survive bumps and bruises. that you can play Uptime is a big skill they want to see, uptime and reliability… If you look at the work over the past month, he’s done very well.”

Utah State’s offensive line deserves credit. A running back is only as good as their O-line, and Tyler Jr. was quick to praise them this year.

Anderson also had praise for that group on Saturday night.

“O-line is doing a great job clearing people out,” he said. “We’re getting better and better. Not a finished product but man we got better every week.”

After defeating the Spartans, however, Tyler Jr. chose to single out a few other players, unsung, and credited them for much of his individual success this season.

“I want to do something different now,” Tyler Jr. said, shaking off the praise for his accomplishment. “I want to thank people like John Gentry. He didn’t play a chance at running back this year, but he’s been the key teammate this year.

“He doesn’t understand it and it’s probably going to get over his head, but he’s done it all in practice, worked his butt off and motivated me, the same energy on and off the field every day. I’m so thankful for guys like him and Jordan Wilmore. same thing. These guys motivate me. They stayed with me and lifted my head up.”

For his part, Tyler Jr. has kept the Aggies in the hunt for bowl eligibility, a goal now achieved with a game to go.

“Winning this conference is hard… The coaches never gave up on us and this team never gave up on each other,” Tyler Jr. said. “We made mistakes, but you live and learn. So life is. This team showed what kind of team we are. We have grit, all fights have stopped in us now. It feels great (to get a bowl game).”