Career nights from senior running back Kerwynn Williams and sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton led Utah State to a 35-13 Homecoming win over UNLV Saturday night at a spirited Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium.
In a white out by the fans and team, USU wore all white uniforms, pants and helmets at home, while the near-capacity crowd was mostly decked out in white. With the win, the Aggies improve to 4-1 on the year, their best start since 1978, by amassing 564 total yards, the second-most this season and 17th-best in school history.
Utah State improves to 50-30-2 all-time on Homecoming, snapping a two-game losing streak in celebrating the Aggie blue and fighting white. USU is also 3-0 against UNLV in the Aggies' Homecoming games, improving to 13-7 all-time against the Rebels, also halting a two-game losing skid in the series.
UNLV falls to 1-4 on the year with the loss, in its first road game of the season. The Rebels have now lost their last 17 road games.
With career-highs of seven catches for 147 yards with one TD catch, Williams amassed the most receiving yards by a non-wide receiver since Tom Larscheid who had 172 receiving yards in 1959. The current Aggie senior added 20 rushes for 113 yards to also became the first USU player with 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game since former teammate Robert Turbin with 116 yards receiving and 104 rushing against Southern Utah in 2009.
Keeton threw for a career-best 402 yards on 20-of-33 passing with four touchdowns, one to Williams for 74 yards. The 402 passing yards is the 10th-most in school history and the most since Jose Fuentes threw for 426 against Middle Tennessee in 2002.
Two of Keeton's touchdown tosses went to senior wide receiver Chuck Jacobs, who finished with four receptions for 101 yards, scoring on a 50-yard pass play and a 17-yard catch. The 100-yard receiving tandem of Williams and Jacobs are the first pair of Aggies with 100-yards receiving since 2002 when Chris Cooley (5-105) and Kevin Curtis (13-177) accomplished the feat against Middle Tennessee in the same game of Fuentes' mark.
Curtis was on hand for Saturday's game as he was the USU Homecoming 2012 Grand Marshal in Saturday morning's parade and was honored at halftime Saturday night.
Utah State ended the night with 424 yards passing as sophomore quarterback Craig Harrison threw and completed his first Aggie pass with a 22-yard strike to fellow freshman, wide receiver Bruce Natson. The 424 passing yards was USU's first 400-yard passing outing since the aforementioned 2002 game at Middle Tennessee with 442 and was also the eighth-best passing mark in school history. USU ended with 140 yards rushing Saturday night.
The stout Aggie defense was led by the linebacker tandem of junior Jake Doughty and sophomore Zach Vigil, as Doughty had a career-high 13 tackles and Vigil tied his career-high with 10. Sophomore safety Brian Suite added eight tackles, while senior linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu and senior cornerback Will Davis added seven stops each. Filimoeatu tallied one tackle for loss, half a sack and one pass break-up while Davis notched two pass break-ups, part of the seven on the night by the USU defense.
Doughty and redshirt-freshman linebacker Kyler Fackrell teamed up to tackle UNLV running back Tim Cornett in the end zone for a safety to cap the Aggies' scoring with 5:10 left in the game.
The Rebels had 188 yards passing and 117 yards rushing for 305 total yards. UNLV was led Nick Sherry's 18-of-39 passing for 188 yards, with 90 yards going to Devante Davis on five catches. Marcus Sullivan added six catches for 34 yards, while Max Johnson snared Sherry's lone touchdown pass. Bradley Randle rushed 14 times for 91 yards.
After USU's defense pitched its fourth-straight first quarter shutout, the Aggies got on the board first with a 32-yard field goal from sophomore placekicker Josh Thompson just 44 seconds into the second quarter for a 3-0 Aggie advantage.
UNLV countered on its ensuing drive, on the 3-yard TD toss from Sherry to Johnson with 10:45 on the clock, for the Aggies' first TD yielded in the first half and a 7-3 Rebels' lead, only the second time this season that USU has trailed.
The Aggies responded by marching down the field, with Keeton capping the drive with a 1-yard toss to junior tight end D.J. Tialavea in the back corner of the end zone and Thompson's PAT made it 10-7 Aggies with 7:24 until half. After the USU defense forced a three-and-out, the home team took over at midfield and on the second play, Keeton hit Jacobs down the middle for a 50-yard catch and run to the end zone play for a 17-7 lead.
With 31 ticks on the clock, USU took over at its own 18 and four plays later, Thompson split the uprights from 31-yards out as time expired in the half, making the scoreboard read 20-7 in the Aggies' favor to start the halftime festivities.
The Aggies fumbled on their first play in the second half at their own 22, but the USU defense held strong, forcing a UNLV field goal for a 20-10 deficit with 12:44 to go in the third quarter. The Rebels were also the next team to score, with Nolan Kohorst drilling his second field goal of the game, cutting the USU gap to 20-13 with 1:21 left in the frame.
Just like they opened the second quarter, the Aggies started the fourth quarter scoring on Williams' 74-yard scoring pass play from Keeton. On USU's next possession, Keeton hit Jacobs across the middle in the end zone for a 17-yard toucheown toss to put the Aggies ahead, 33-13 with 10:47 remaining in the game. Fackrell and Doughty's safety capped the scored with 5:10 to go.
Utah State has a short week, as the Aggies head south to Provo, Utah, to take on in-state foe BYU on Friday, Oct. 4 at 8:15 p.m. in a nationally televised game on ESPN.
USU continues action on the road, opening up Western Athletic Conference play at San Jose State on Saturday, Oct. 13 before returning home to host New Mexico State on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.
Utah State football tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.