Utah State football: Aggies lose Keeton for the season
Logan • Quarterback Chuckie Keeton is out for the season, Utah State announced Saturday afternoon.
Keeton is expected to take eight months to recover after an MCL/ACL tear.
"We've lost a great leader, great teammate and a very productive football player," coach Matt Wells said. "I have all the confidence in the world in Chuckie, along with our doctors and staff that he will come back stronger than ever next season."
The rest of the Utah State football team doesn't have the luxury to wait for its most dynamic offensive player to heal. Keeton, a preseason candidate on numerous college awards watchlists, had been one of the leading passers in the nation with 20 total touchdowns, 1,629 total yards and completing 69 percent of his throws.
Wells repeated his belief Friday that Utah State was not "a bunch of individuals and we're not about one kid."
Added Wells: "We're about to find out if we are or not."
That process could be a difficult route for the Aggies.
Junior Craig Harrison steps in as the starter, and the final three quarters against BYU offered a glimpse of what a Chuckie-less attack could be like.
The going was rugged. Although Utah State managed nearly 400 yards of offense, the team only entered the red zone once after Keeton was injured. Missed connections in the passing game added to the frustration. Jaron Bentrude's 10 punts were a season high.
Harrison had 185 yards passing and a touchdown on an 18-for-41 night. He also ran for 38 yards but fumbled twice. It was an admittedly difficult situation for the junior to enter, minutes after watching his teammate leave the game with a knee injury.
"It's a lot like seeing your brother go down," Harrison said. "It was very difficult and very emotional for me for many reasons."
The play calling should change with Harrison at the helm. Wells said Harrison has gotten about 30 percent of the practice reps to this point and has been consistent in those looks. Wells said he saw some good and some bad from Harrison, and the coach emphasized he needed to be more accurate down the field.
Harrison acknowledged that Utah State will have to adjust to his skill set.
"A lot more drop-back, play action, in-the-pocket kind of stuff," Harrison said. "Obviously zone read isn't a strength of mine. It's not something we'll eliminate completely because it's a very important part of our offense."
Wells said he was not ready to address the possibility that other quarterbacks could see time, such as freshmen Darell Garretson or Jeff Manning.
Offense wasn't the only problem Friday night: Utah State's secondary was ripped apart in the third quarter by BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and receiver Mitch Mathews. Although the Aggies defense held them to only five third-down conversions in 18 tries, explosive plays in the passing game hurt them.
Zach Vigil said Friday that the defense's room for error will shrink dramatically. Utah State's defense can't break down if the team hopes to compete.
"At this point of the season, we have to move past that and depend on another guy," he said. "I know that we can do it. We have the people to do it. When you have an injury on the offensive side of the ball, the defense has to play better. We have to play better or we will lose, and we will continue to lose."
By the numbers
Chuckie Keeton in 2013:
Passing yards 1,388
Completion % 69.4
Passing TDs 18
QB rating 157.1
Rushing yards 241
Rushing TDs 2
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