Utah State football used a pair a 90+ yard drives in scoring on its first three possessions to jump out to a 21-0 lead and cruised to a 34-3 win against Southern Utah Thursday night at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium in both teams' season opener.
Sophomore running back Joe Hill ran for a career-best 116 yards and three touchdowns as USU won its sixth-straight regular-season game while improving to 37-14-1 when opening a season at home. With Thursday's win, the Aggies improve to 3-0 against the Thunderbirds and have out-scored them 87-37 in their last two meetings after USU's 53-34 win on Sept. 26, 2009, in Gary Andersen's first home game as USU head coach.
The Aggies amassed 581 yards of total offense Thursday night, the 12th-most in school history and the most since last season when USU put up 635 yards on Weber State in its home-opener. The Aggies totalled 277 total rushing yards, as senior running back Kerwynn Williams added 15 carries for 63 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton was 22-of-26 passing for 304 yards, with two touchdowns, one to senior wide receiver Chuck Jacobs for 48 yards to cap USU's opening scoring drive that ate up 97 yards. Keeton added a 35-yard touchdown toss to senior wide receiver Matt Austin on the Aggies' next possession after a 30-yard punt return by Jacobs gave USU the ball at the SUU 45. Keeton's 22 completions and 304 passing yards were both career-highs.
On the Aggies' third possession, Hill dashed in from 27-yards out, capping a 98-yard drive for a 21-0 USU lead with 1:01 on the first quarter clock.
Austin led USU with five catches for a career-high 119 yards and one touchdown, while Jacobs tallied four receptions for 64 yards.
SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen was 12-of-31 for 153 yards, while getting intercepted by USU redshirt-freshman linebacker La'Bradford Harold in the end zone to end the game. Henna Brown led the T-Birds in rushing with nine carries for 21 yards, while Fatu Moala had five catches for 68 yards.
The Aggie defense held its opposition to single digits for the first time since a 24-9 win over San Jose State on Nov. 7, 2009, and the fewest under head coach Gary Andersen. Senior safety McKade Brady and senior cornerback Terrence Alston posted five tackles each with Alston posting one sack, matching junior defensive end Connor Williams with one sack.
Overall, the 209 yards of total offense allowed by USU was its fewest since New Mexico State had 156 total yards during the 2008 season.
The T-Birds were led by Namar Flentroy and Rickey Clark with 13 tackles each, while Jeff Tukuafu posted 2.5 tackles for loss. Tommy Collet had SUU's lone interception of the night.
SUU got on the board with 7:49 on the clock in the second quarter on a 22-yard field goal from Colton Cook to make the score 21-3, which it would remain at the half.
Utah State took the second-half kickoff and marched down the field, with Hill darting in from 19 yards out to put USU ahead, 28-3, just 3:07 into the second half.
Hill capped his three touchdown outing with a 33-yard scoring scamper with 14:51 left in the fourth quarter, but the PAT failed.
For the first time since 1996, Utah State will open a season with back-to-back home games, hosting Utah on Friday, Sept. 7, at 6 p.m. (MT) from Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. The Aggies' game against Utah will be on ESPN2.
For USU football ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305. Tickets can also be purchased 24 hours a day on the USU Athletics website.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.