LOS ANGELES — This was supposed to be Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton’s chance on the big stage to show what he could do against a big-time program.
Instead the USC defense, which came into the game ranked fourth in the nation in total defense, stole the show. The Trojans bottled up the Aggies’ quarterback all day, never allowing him to show off his running ability.
Keeton, who came into the game seventh in the nation in total offense, finished with minus-15 yards on 12 rushing attempts and was sacked four times. He tried to run the ball on several occasions, only to find the middle clogged up.
Keeton wasn’t made available to the media after the game, but he was clearly frustrated by his inability to find some open field to run to. He did make some nice passes, including a pair of touchdown passes to Brandon Swindall and Travis Reynolds, but on the day completed only 21 of 39 passes for 179 yards, well off his season averages.
“Obviously that was not his best,’’ said USU coach Matt Wells about Keeton. “They did a nice job of disrupting a lot of his rhythm. I wished he’d played better in some areas, but that kid gives us a chance to win every week.’’
Wells said it was a “two-fold’’ problem of Keeton's line not protecting the quarterback long enough and receivers not getting open downfield.
“Their front seven is really, really good,’’ Wells said. “We strung them out; we packed them in; we shifted out; we motioned; we gave them every look that we could give them to get (Keeton) uncorked a little bit.’’
USC coach Lane Kiffin called Keeton a “great player’’ and said he was thrilled with the way his defense contained him.
“We did really well against the rush,’’ said Kiffin. “I think we’re going to be tested in different ways from some high-powered offenses and today we passed the test.’’
MISCUES HURT AGGIES: Penalties continue to plague the Aggies, who came into the game ranked 97th in the nation for fewest penalty yards allowed.
The Aggies had six penalties in the first quarter alone Saturday and for the game finished with 11 for 89 yards.
“We’ll go back and assess where those penalties were,’’ said Wells. “Some we overcame and some we didn’t and some were ill-timed unfortunately. I wish it would have been a little cleaner.’’
One penalty that really hurt the Aggies came in the second quarter with the score tied 7-7. Keeton hit Bruce Natson for an apparent 31-yard gain. But the play was called back for illegal receiver downfield.
Afterward fellow receiver Reynolds said the officials got the call wrong because Natson was lined up properly.
After USU gave the ball back to USC, the Trojans went down and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a nine-play 70-yard drive.
GAME NOTES: Utah State is now 18-5 in its last 13 games and the five losses are by a combined 13 points. ... Approximately 1,000 Aggie fans were on hand for the game, sitting in the southeast corner of the stadium. Several hundred attended a pep rally the night before. ... USC senior right guard John Martinez played for Cottonwood High School. ... You think parking prices in Utah are costly? To park anywhere around the Coliseum, it costs $25 and if you want to be real close it’s $40. ... Tight end Keegan Andersen, son of former coach Gary Andersen, made his first start Saturday, but didn’t have any catches. ... USC’s first-quarter touchdown was just the second TD the Aggies have allowed in their last 20 games.. ... USC will host another Utah school when the University of Utah pays a visit Oct. 26.
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