Utah State football title guaranteed: Aggies claim share of WAC crown for first time

By Matt Vines

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Nov. 18 2012 12:30 a.m. MST

Utah State cornerback Will Davis (17) breaks up a touchdown pass to Louisiana Tech wide receiver D.J. Banks (5) during their NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, in Ruston, La. (AP Photo/Kita Wright)

Associated Press

RUSTON, La. — Utah State's defense leads the WAC in rush defense, and Louisiana Tech decided to run on fourth-and-three from the 18-yard line in overtime.

USU linebacker Jake Doughty made his game-high 18th tackle on Bulldogs' running back Ray Holley, and the Aggies rushed the field following the 48-41 overtime win over No. 20 Louisiana Tech (9-2, 4-1 WAC).

The victory secures at least a share of the WAC title, USU's first WAC football title ever and first conference title since winning the Big West in 1997.

"I don't know where to start," said USU coach Gary Andersen. "It has been an unbelievable journey for four years up to this point.

"Having it end like that is unbelievable. We have a tough-minded group of kids."

Utah State (9-2, 5-0 WAC) scored the go-ahead touchdown with a Kerwynn Williams' four-yard run in overtime. Williams finished with 162 of the Aggies' 306 rushing yards.

After punting on its final four possessions in regulation that helped the Bulldogs' 24-0 run, the Aggies marched down the field on four plays in overtime.

Williams added 125 receiving yards on four catches, including an 86-yard screen pass touchdown on USU's first offensive play.

"There are a few kids that have been here forever now, and there are really only two of them that have started this with us," Andersen said. "Kerwynn was in our first class.

"We knew it was going to be a game where at any point (Louisiana Tech) could come back. They have done that all year long. We just had to keep scoring ... We are WAC champs, and no one can take that away from us."

The Aggies' nine wins ties a school record set in 1961 and 1968.

USU won its second game in eight tries against Louisiana Tech, and the Aggies hadn't won in Ruston since 1994.

The road win is USU's first against a ranked team in program history, and the Aggies are now 2-50 all-time against ranked opponents.

The Aggies jumped out quickly, as they have against their previous four conference opponents, by taking a 17-3 halftime lead.

Sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton engineered a 16-play, 86-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Kellen Bartlett that gave the Aggies a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Keeton broke USU's single-season record with 25 touchdown passes, passing Jose Fuentes' 24 set in 2001.

Keeton threw for 340 yards on 20-of-34 passing and rushed for 121 yards and two more scores on 17 attempts.

"The thing about dual-threat quarterbacks is that they hurt everybody's defense," said Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes. "They are hard to stop.

"I think we covered very well at times, but when you get pressure or lose contain, all of a sudden he's running for a first down on you."

After the teams traded a pair of first-half field goals, Utah State scored the first 10 second-half points to grab a 27-3 lead.

Utah State started the half by halting a Bulldogs' drive with a Will Davis interception in the end zone.

Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron's NCAA record of 444 pass attempts without an interception was ended, and Cameron threw for 396 yards on 35-of-60 passing with two interceptions.

"You can talk about different guys, but I know this, there are kids in the back end that took great pride (Saturday) in going and getting themselves in a fight against one of the top or best offenses in the country," Andersen said about his physical secondary. "We went toe-to-toe with one of the best wide receivers that I have seen in college football in a long time in (Quinton Patton). When you are playing against a team like this that is averaging the points they are averaging ... you have to understand it and change the game.

"The only way to change that game is to bring pressure and play man coverage."

Keeton scored on a 13-yard run and Diaz added a 30-yard field goal after Tech kick returner D.J. Banks muffed a kickoff.

Keeton added a 25-yard touchdown run in which he juked one Tech defender and plowed through another to take a 34-10 lead.

Utah State had its third 24-point advantage at 41-17, but the Bulldogs stormed back to score 24 unanswered points in 15:48.

Banks returned a kickoff 98 yards before Kenneth Dixon and Hunter Lee added touchdown runs.

Tech's comeback appeared over when Doughty intercepted a pass with five minutes remaining and a 41-31 edge.

"First of all, Jake is one of those examples of who we are," Andersen said. "He has belief. He is tough, aggressive, a never-say-die young man.

"He made a lot of plays, did a lot of great things, walked on with this program and believed in me. ... For him to make those plays is awesome."

But the Bulldogs responded by forcing a quick punt, and Tech drove 86 yards in just eight plays that ended with the Lee touchdown run.

Utah State couldn't pick up a first down on the next possession, and Tech drove 62 yards to set up a Matt Nelson 32-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime.

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