SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Chuckie Keeton did everything he could to push Utah State to a second consecutive upset over Utah. The only problem is that the Aggies could not get out of their own way during several critical drives.
There was plenty of second-guessing among coaches and players on the USU sideline after the Aggies blew a nine point second half lead and fell 30-26 to the Utes on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
Utah State kept a first-half Utah scoring drive alive with back-to-back personal fouls. The Aggies also failed to recover an onside kick that set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Utes late in the third quarter. To top it off, their defense could not make a stop in the final five minutes to give Keeton one last stab at a touchdown.
"There's always going to be adversity in every single game," Keeton said. "I guess that was it. It's really how you respond to that adversity. We didn't exactly respond really good."
Travis Wilson and Andy Phillips stole the spotlight in the end from Keeton.
Wilson threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore was unexpectedly pressed into the starting lineup because of injuries last year and looked more comfortable this time around. He played error-free while completing 17 of 28 passes and rushed for a key first down on Utah's final drive.
"The team responded well tonight," Wilson said. "We never doubted ourselves and kept our confidence up. We were able to make some big plays downfield that set us up well for our touchdowns."
No play was bigger than the onside kick executed by Phillips.
Keeton, who completed 31-of-40 passes for 314 yards, scored on a 15-yard run to give the Aggies a 23-14 lead early in the second half. Utah State seemed fully in control and on its way to another big upset over its instate rivals.
With the Utes down nine, he kicked a 45-yard field goal to help them claw back to within six. Then Karl Williams, who lost a fumble earlier in the third quarter, recovered the ensuing onside kick. Williams finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown rush and Utah led 24-23.
"I was thrilled," Phillips said. "I wanted it called all game. Obviously, that's Coach (Jay) Hill's call. He saw the opportunity. When he called it, I was excited because I knew we could pull it off. It didn't go as planned. I'm supposed to recover that kick. But Karl did a great job of coming up behind me and making a play on the ball."
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