Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LOS ANGELES – Four times previously, the Utah State football team has shown up at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, only to go home licking its wounds after a big beatdown by the mighty USC Trojans.
The Aggies have lost by an average score of 53-7, including two appearances in the 1980s. In 1984, behind quarterback Sean Salisbury, USC buried the Aggies, 42-7, and five years later the Trojans crushed the Ags, 66-10, behind freshman quarterback Todd Marinovich.
The 2-1 Aggies will meet the 2-1 Trojans again Saturday afternoon (1:30 p.m.) in a nationally televised (ABC-TV) game at the famed Coliseum.
This time around it isn’t expected to be a blowout of those proportions as the Aggies come into the game off big wins over Air Force (52-20) and Weber State (70-6), while the Trojans are still trying to find their offense, following wins over Hawaii (30-13) and Boston College (35-7) and a loss to Washington State (10-7) in between.
The Aggies are hoping for another strong showing like they’ve shown in recent years with close losses to big-name opponents, such as Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Auburn and Wisconsin in each of the last four years. Only this time, the Ags don’t want to go home with another close loss.
"I think it would be a milestone for the program,’’ said USU coach Matt Wells about a possible victory. “It would be huge. You're going into a place that's got the tradition of USC and the teams that they've had. It's going to be on a national stage. It's a chance for some exposure for the program and everything that goes with it. Hopefully we can play well early and get it to the fourth quarter, then we'll see what happens."
The strength of the Aggie team is its offense behind dynamic junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, while the USC’s strength is its defense, which has allowed just 22 points this year (the offense gave up a touchdown on an interception and a safety). The Trojans rank fourth in the nation in total defense, only allowing 212.3 yards per game and are eighth in scoring defense. Safety Dion Bailey leads the team with 21 tackles.
On the other hand, Utah State is ranked 12th in the nation is total offense at 550.3 yards per game and tied for eighth in scoring offense at 49.3 points per game. That has gotten the attention of USC coach Lane Kiffin.
“This is the best offense statistically that we've played and so we're going to have to tackle really well,” Kiffin said. “We're going to have to cover because they're really good.”
The fourth-year USC coach is also impressed Keeton, who is tied for first in the nation with 12 touchdown passes and is seventh in total offense at 370 yards per game.
“He's a really unique player,” Kiffin said. “As well as he played last year, he's improved this year with his accuracy. His throwing is really on time. He doesn't get sacked very much. To me, he looks a lot like Russell Wilson. He finds ways to make plays when they're not there.”
GAME NOTES: This will be the Aggies' first nationally televised game on network TV since October of 1978 against BYU . . . Besides the losses in 1984 and 1989, the Aggies lost to USC 40-12 in 1928 and 65-0 in 1930 . . . Kiffin is 27-14 in his fourth year as USC coach . . . Utah State has 13 players from the state of California . . . This will be the only time this season the Aggies will play a game on natural grass . . . Next week the Aggies will play in northern California, at San Jose State Friday night.
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