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Logan • On one snap, Chuckie Keeton stepped up in the pocket, tossed a strike through UNLV's defense and connected with Chuck Jacobs on a 50-yard touchdown pass.
On another, Utah State's sophomore quarterback invited the Rebel defenders to him, lobbed a screen to Kerwynn Williams and watched the senior race 74 yards for another score.
Football isn't an individual sport. But it's hard to overlook Keeton's performance in Saturday night's 35-13 victory over UNLV before a "whiteout" crowd of 24,226 at Romney Stadium.
He threw for a career-high 402 yards, the most for any USU quarterback since 2002. He tossed four touchdowns and balanced it out with a single interception. Known as a runner, Keeton stuck with the pocket. He stayed patient. Stood tall. Then he shredded the UNLV's secondary with impunity.
"He's just gotten more mature with each week," Aggies head coach Gary Andersen said. "He's got a clock in his head. There were times that I was screaming for him to run it, and then he would wait for someone to get open. He's picked up a great ability to read defenses, and his offensive line is playing better in front of him."
Before what Andersen called a "great college football atmosphere," Utah State turned in different performances, depending on the quarter. There was the dominant second period, where the Aggies scored 20 points and threatened to blow things open. There was the spotty third quarter, with two turnovers on consecutive possessions, which allowed UNLV to close within 20-13. And finally, the fourth period, where the Aggies took control.
The one constant was the defense. The unit stopped the Rebels twice in the red zone following turnovers. It forced a safety in the fourth period. It harassed UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry into an interception and a number of sacks. It came up with big plays and big stops whenever needed.
"We have a lot of 'want to' on defense," linebacker Jake Doughty said. "We have a lot of character. Guys care. We don't like to surrender a single yard if we don't have to."
Saturday represented a number of career nights. Williams, a Las Vegas native spurned of an offer from UNLV out of high school, ran for 113 yards and caught seven passes for 147 yards. That total represented the most for a non-receiver at Utah State since 1959.
Chuck Jacobs caught four passes for a career-best 101 yards. Doughty's 13 tackles were the most of his career. Utah State moves to 4-1 on the season, its best start since 1978. And with each victory, the Aggies make more of a case as the best team in the state.
Still, the turnovers and the sloppy play remain an issue. The difference this season is that Utah State appears talented enough to mask the mistakes. That doesn't make things any less concerning for Andersen.
"We have to clean that stuff up or it's going to cost us a game at some point," Andersen said. "We can't continually lose the turnover battle, which is what we've done. It's not so much of a third-quarter thing. It's an execution thing. Guys aren't executing, and it's costing us turnovers. That's got to stop, or it's going to hurt us at some point."
Storylines Utah St. 35, UNLV 13
R Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton throws for a career-high 402 yards.
• Utah State scores 15 consecutive points in the fourth quarter.
• The Aggies move to 4-1 on the season, their best start since 1978.