Utah State football: Keeton bombards Air Force, leads Aggies to 52-20 victory
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Chuckie Keeton spotted openings in passing lanes all around him, and when he decided where to throw, the result often showed up on the scoreboard.
Keeton matched his own school record by throwing for five touchdowns, including three in the third quarter, as Utah State routed Air Force 52-20 Saturday to give Aggies coach Matt Wells his first win in the school's Mountain West Conference debut.
"It's a great feeling, first of all, to get Coach Wells' first win and knowing it's our first Mountain West win is incredible as well," Keeton said. "We're extremely happy, especially coming off the loss (to rival Utah) last week. So this is a lot of momentum that we needed. It's going to be a fun season."
Keeton completed 32 of 40 for 360 yards passing, the fifth time in seven games he has thrown for at least 300 yards dating to last season. Keeton also threw for five touchdowns as a freshman in a 63-19 win over Wyoming in 2011.
"There's definitely some matchups we looked for today," Keeton said. "Our receivers did a great job of getting some separation and the guys up front did a great job. I was the benefactor of that."
Each of Keeton's scoring passes went to a different receiver. He started by completing a 30-yard touchdown to Travis Van Leeuwen. He then added a 23-yarder to Ronald Butler, 20-yarder to Joe Hill, 36-yarder to Travis Reynolds and finally a 1-yard scoring pass to Keegan Andersen.
"I feel like our offense was firing on all cylinders," Reynolds said. "It's always fun, with a lot of receivers getting touches. Chuckie was spreading the love around."
Joe Hill and Joey DeMartino each added short touchdown runs for Utah State (1-1, 1-0 Mountain West), which made the move to the new conference from the Western Athletic Conference.
Jaleel Awini had a rough outing in his first career start at quarterback for Air Force (1-1, 0-1), and also was victimized by several drops by his receivers.
Playing in place of injured Kale Pearson (knee), Awini fumbled on his first play from scrimmage and finished 4 of 12 for 61 yards. Awini had a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, and with Air Force down by 32 points late in the third quarter, was replaced by Karson Roberts.
"I think we got thumped in every way that you can diagnose," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "(Utah State) is a heck of a football team, a top 20 team. They've played that way. They played like a strong, physically stout, athletic, highly skilled squad today and we did an awful lot to contribute to that, too."
Leading 24-13 at halftime, Utah State's Keeton opened the third quarter by guiding the Aggies on an 89-yard touchdown drive, finishing it off with the scoring pass to a wide-open Butler.
Trying to quickly get back in the game on its ensuing possession, Air Force faked a punt on a fourth-and-3 play from its own 32-yard line. But the scheme backfired. Punter David Baska was run out of bounds for no gain, and moments later, Keeton threw his third touchdown pass of the day, this one to Hill, and Utah State had pulled out to a 38-13 lead.
"The fake punt was a big turning point, big momentum changer," Wells said. "The defense had some big stops which helped us keep scoring."
Before the end of the third, Keeton had teamed up with Reynolds on his fourth touchdown pass and hooked up for a final one with Andersen early in the fourth quarter before being given the rest of the game off.
Roberts threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jale Robinette midway through the final quarter for Air Force. Will Conant had field goals of 33 and 34 yards for the Falcons.
Nick Diaz kicked a 41-yard field goal for Utah State just before halftime.
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