LOGAN- It is opening night for football season, but Chuckie Keeton and the rest of the Utah State Aggies look like they are in midseason form already. Utah State pounded Southern Utah 34-3 in front of 17,009 fans at Romney Stadium on Thursday night.
Keeton got the nod at starting quarterback for Utah State and wasted no time showing why he earned the job in fall camp. The sophomore finished the game completing 22 of his 26 attempts for 306 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 27 yards on the ground.
Utah State took their first possession from their own three-yard line, but quickly marched down the field with an 11 play 97 yard touchdown drive capped by Keeton finding wide receiver Chuck Jacobs behind the secondary for a 48-yard score.
“Offense came out dynamic as we hoped we would,” Keeton said. “We have a lot of weapons which helped the drive out. Kerwynn Williams got in and produced well. Matt Austin came out and did what we expected him to do.”
Austin was Keeton’s primary target all night long and finished with five catches for 119 yards and a 35-yard touchdown catch on the Aggies second drive of the game.
While the passing game was efficient, the running game didn’t look much different than last year. Joe Hill and company stepped into their new roles without missing a beat. Hill did most of the damage for carrying the ball just, but racking up 116 yards and three TD’s, all career highs for the sophomore. His 27 yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter put Utah State up 21-0 and comfortably in the driver’s seat for the rest of the night.
“We have a lot of pressure from last year, with Turbin and Smith last year,” Hill said of the running backs. “We have to step our game up too and go just as hard as last year.”
Starting running back Kerwynn Williams rushed 63 yards and Robert Marshall chipped in for 53 as the Aggies ran for 277 yards on 51 carries.
As dominant at times as the Aggie offense was, the defense was just a formidable. Southern Utah failed to convert a first down or even complete a pass in the first quarter. Thunderbird quarterback Brad Sorensen finished just 12 of 31 throwing for 153 yards with an interception.
“Our corners did a really good job,” said safety McKade Brady. “We put them in a lot of man situations. They did a good job making (Sorensen) make tough throws and put the ball in hard spots. Our D-line did a good job of botteling him up. He has good feet and can make plays when there is nothing there.”
While he were happy with the victory, head coach Gary Andersen saw plenty of room for improvement. The offense turned the ball over twice, only converted for one touchdown in three red zone attempts, and with several pass interference calls the Aggies earned 10 penalties for 120 yards. All of which will need to be better if Utah State wants a chance to beat in-state rival Utah next week.
“A lot of youthful mistakes we are going to need to correct if we are going to continue to get victories,” Andersen said. “Overall it’s a good solid victory for our program.”
Utah will make perhaps their final trip to Logan to play Utah State next Friday at 6 p.m. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be reached at DesNewsKraig@gmail.com or followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.