Promoted by USU as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Keeton completed 18 of 35 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 12 net yards. In contrast, Tennessee's Justin Worley was 27 of 38 for 273 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Keeton's performances against big-name opponents had become something of a myth, perhaps exaggerated by the surprising nature of his play against Auburn in his collegiate debut in 2011 and the way USU competed overall in those games. His numbers in Sunday's game were comparable to what he produced in a 17-14 defeat at USC last September even though Tennessee's margin of defeat was much bigger.
He did have a remarkable game against Power 5 school Utah in last season's opener, throwing for 314 yards.
Keeton, who took every offensive snap Sunday, was not made available to the media. USU coach Matt Wells said he could point out Keeton's tendency to press and try to make something out of nothing, but that competitive trait is part of the quarterback's nature.
Offensive tackle Kevin Whimpey defended Keeton, saying, "I thought he did everything he needed to do from an individual standpoint."
In his six starts as a junior prior to injuring his knee against BYU in early October, Keeton threw 18 touchdown passes and was intercepted only twice. He matched that interception total Sunday. The first pickoff came in the second quarter when his receiver failed to make a play in one-on-one coverage along the sideline. The other came in the fourth quarter when Keeton appeared to throw the ball right to Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson.
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton's yardage vs. intersectional opponents:
Year Opponent Passing Rushing Result
2011 Auburn 213 33 L, 42-38
2012 Wisconsin 181 75 L, 17-16
2013 USC 179 minus-15 L, 17-14
2014 Tennessee 144 12 L, 38-7