Gordon Monson: BYU-USU game a QB duel, one possession at a time
Quarterbacking was just one factor in Friday night's 6-3 BYU victory over Utah State, but it might have been the most important and interesting to track, piece by piece, possession by possession.
The setup was this: Chuckie Keeton, the Aggie sophomore, came in considered the best QB in the state, and on a roll. Nobody knew exactly who was going to start for the Cougars struggling and injured senior Riley Nelson or the replacement Taysom Hill. The freshman ended up going.
And here, in a virtual conversation between the two, is what happened, and how it affected the outcome at LaVell's Place ...
Hill: "Hello, it's me." Despite Hill using his legs and arm to keep a drive alive, the Cougars are stopped on a 4th-and-1 at the USU 30.
Keeton: "This might be harder than I thought." Keeton completes two short passes, but they are snuffed. The Aggies go three-and-out.
Hill: "Oh-fer." Three straight incompletions from their own 21 give the Cougars nothing but the chance to punt.
Keeton: "Take the points." Keeton teams mostly with Kerwynn Williams on passes and runs for a 13-play drive that makes it to the 2-yard line before settling, after brief thoughts of going for it, for a Josh Thompson 26-yard FG.
Hill: "Ouch." After converting on one third down on the ground, Hill gets popped hard rushing on another third down. Punt.
Keeton: "Move on, nothing to see here." A couple of nice Keeton plays are wasted.
Hill: "Kickers suck." Hill shows brilliant speed on a 17-yard keeper, and nails a couple of sweet throws to Cody Hoffman, moving the ball to the Utah State 17, and then ... a Justin Sorensen field-goal attempt is blocked.
Keeton: "Mister Van Noy's a beast!" On third down, Keeton sacrifices his body churning toward the down marker as the BYU linebacker blows him up.
Hill: "Zilch. Nada. Nichts." The fleet QB hula-hoops to avoid a sack but can't get a first down.
Keeton: "I'm OK, you're a jerk." Keeton scares all of Aggie Nation when he appears hurt after Van Noy pops him to the turf, but he returns after one play.
Hill: "I got this." Taking the ball at his own 39, with 28 seconds left in the half, Hill guns three straight passes to Hoffman, including a beaut of a 28-yarder, followed by a 3-yard TD pass to JD Falslev with three seconds remaining. PAT misses.
And the second half ...
Keeton: "Oops." The Ag quarterback has the ball punched out of his hands at his own 10-yard line and BYU recovers at the 9.
Hill: "Darn it all to heck." Despite getting the aforementioned gift of a turnover, the Cougars make two huge errors committing a hold and botching a fake field goal that USU sees coming. No points, Aggie ball.
Keeton: "I'll take it." After ducking, unharmed, away from the BYU bullet, Keeton moves the ball modestly, before a punt to the Cougars' 17.
Hill: "Tell them to stop." Another hold by BYU's offensive line puts Hill in a hole, forcing another punt, this one shanked to midfield.
Keeton: "Who called this crap?" A stupid trick play on a reverse results in a Preston Hadley pick at the BYU 2 and a busted scoring threat.
Hill: "M-m-miss it ... m-m-miss it." Jumanne Robertson misreads a sure interception at midfield.
Keeton: "You take it, I don't want it." The QB unloads an incomplete third-down pass to avoid getting sandwiched between Ziggy Ansah and Uona Kaveinga.
Hill: "Am I gonna have to do this myself?" No, you can't. After three quarters, Hill accounts for 243 of BYU's 267 total offensive yards, but he throws an pick at 10:21 of the fourth, killing a drive.
Keeton: "Kickers really suck." After the BYU turnover and a short USU drive, Thompson attempts a 37-yard field goal, the same spot and distance from which he missed at Wisconsin, and the Aggies continue to trail, 6-3.
Hill: "Cody's my man." Hill hits Hoffman for a 28-yard pass that extends a drive, but with just more than five minutes left, the thing stalls. A Cougar punt puts Utah State on its own 6.
Keeton: "This is brutal." A sack and a penalty ruin a late Aggie chance. A punt boils the outcome down to this: Can BYU pick up a first down?
Hill: "Run Jamaal, run." The Cougar quarterback relies on another freshman Jamaal Williams to get a first down, and a few more to end the game.