Logan • Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton started his sophomore season Thursday night with career highs in passing yards and completions, looking like the better QB at Romney Stadium while Southern Utah’s much-hyped Brad Sorensen struggled.
Keeton, who showed how good he could be last season when he nearly led Utah State to an upset of Auburn on national television, threw two touchdown passes on his first two possessions and completed 22 of 26 throws for 304 yards as the Aggies shellacked the Thunderbirds 34-3 before a crowd of 17,009.
Yet when asked, Keeton graded his performance as a “B.” He did throw an interception and missed a few reads.
“I completed a pass to the defensive back,” Keeton said. “The good thing is that those are mistakes that I can correct in practice. I would’ve given myself a better grade if not for the interception.”
USU left at least three potential scores on the field with miscues and turnovers.
Still, for a season opener, the Aggies accomplished a few goals. The backups played the entire fourth quarter and the celebration from an animated student section began an hour before kickoff and was never given a reason to dissipate.
“For a first game, this was a great win for us and a great win for our program,” Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. “A lot of young men got to play for us in the second half, and that was a huge positive. This was a good solid win for us, and it’s where we need to be. We will be able to evaluate a lot of young men tomorrow during film. That is a very good thing.”
Backup running back Joe Hill looked like anything but Thursday. He ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns and made his mark in the first extensive bit of playing time in his career — continuing the promise he showed during fall camp over the last month.
Defensively, the Aggies dominated, allowing the fewest points in a single game during the Gary Andersen era.
Against an experienced offense and the experienced Sorensen, USU didn’t surrender a touchdown, even during garbage time. Sorensen, the senior who had six NFL scouts there to see him play, was just 12-of-31 for 153 yards. Utah State linebacker La’Bradford Harold intercepted him on the last play.
The T-Birds were limited to 209 yards of total offense. It took them until the second quarter to register a first down, and they punted nine times. By comparison, the Aggies amassed 581 yards of offense.
“They appeared very fast,” SUU coach Ed Lamb said. “Their speed was a big problem for us. Their strength was an issue for us. They didn’t really throw the ball in the second half and they probably could’ve done that the whole game. They really pushed us around.”
R Chuckie Keeton sets career highs in passing yardage (304) and completions (22).
• Joe Hill runs for a career-high three touchdowns.
• Utah State wins its first home season opener since 1996.