LOGAN — Utah State renewed its rivalry with Utah in a big way Friday night at Romney Stadium. The Aggies defeated the Utes 27-20 in overtime — ending a 12-game skid in a long-running series fresh off a two-year hiatus.
"It's a huge victory for Utah State," said USU coach Gary Andersen, who considered it a group effort. "...It's a huge win for the program and it's something we've had our eyes set on for a long, long time."
Indeed. It was USU's first win over Utah since a 21-14 decision in 1997, which also marked the last time the Aggies opened a season 2-0.
"They outcoached us — both sides of the ball (and) special teams," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "They played harder than we did."
The Utes (1-1) lost more than just a game. Starting quarterback Jordan Wynn was sidelined after injuring his shoulder late in the first half (X-rays were negative) and defensive end Joe Kruger was ejected with 9:30 left in regulation for allegedly throwing a punch.
It all added up to a tough night for Utah.
"We did enough wrong in this game to last us a while," Whittingham noted.
USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton challenged the Utes throughout the contest. In overtime, he converted a third-and-9 with a 23-yard run to bring the Aggies to the Utah 1.
"He's a heckuva quarterback and he made the most of it," Whittingham said of the pivotal play that eventually led to a Kerwynn Williams' decisive touchdown two plays later.
Utah's chance to match the score was stymied by a pass interference call that negated what would have been a 6-yard score from quarterback Jon Hays to tight end Jake Murphy. The 15-yard penalty put the Utes in what proved to be an insurmountable hole. After a 4-yard completion from Hays to running back John White, the game ended with an incompletion on fourth down.
USU fans poured onto the field to celebrate the victory.
"This is just a stepping stone," Keeton said while pointing that the Aggies' top goal is to win a bowl game.
Even so, there was great joy in Aggieland.
It didn't take long for USU to begin building a 13-3 halftime lead. The Aggies capitalized on a pair of Utah miscues in the opening quarter to produce the game's first two scores.
USU's initial touchdown came on a blocked punt just over seven minutes into the game. Zach Vigil deflected a kick by Utah punter Sean Sellwood and Clayton Christensen recovered the ball in the end zone to put the Aggies on top.
Leading 7-0 after Brock Warren added the PAT, the Aggies' second score followed a fumbled snap that bounced off Wynn's chest and was secured by defensive lineman Travis Seefeldt on the USU 28.
With three seconds remaining in the quarter, Chuckie Keeton and Joe Hill connected on a 15-yard scoring strike to cap a six-play drive. The extra point was no good.
Utah trailed 13-0 until Petersen made a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.
The momentum shift continued in the third quarter. That's when freshman quarterback Travis Wilson teamed with Kenneth Scott on a 28-yard touchdown pass and Petersen added a 40-yard field goal to tie things up.
Utah's defense did its part by forcing two takeaways. Safety Quade Chappuis got things started by jarring the ball away from USU receiver Chuck Jacobs. The fumble was recovered by Trevor Reilly near midfield, setting up the Utes' touchdown drive.
Another fumble led to the game-tying field goal. Keeton fumbled the ball when sacked by Joe Kruger. Utah took possession when Nate Fakahafua scooped it up on the USU 44.
The teams exchanged touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Aggies struck first with a 4-yard throw from Keeton to Kellen Bartlett. Less than six minutes later, the Utes countered with a 24-yard strike from Hays to Kenneth Scott.
Utah had a chance to win it late in regulation. However, a 52-yard field-goal attempt by Petersen as short.
"It's a miracle we were even in the game after our first-half performance. The score should have been worse at halftime than it was," Whittingham said. "But we happened to keep it close and then pulled even with them in the fourth quarter and actually had a chance — believe it or not — to win at the end. Obviously we didn't get it done."
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