Logan • Utah State lost more than its star quarterback against BYU when Chuckie Keeton went down with what appears to be a significant knee injury.
The Aggies lost most of the swagger and confidence they've carried around for almost three seasons. Suddenly, the energy left Romney Stadium like air being let out of a balloon. Suddenly, a normally stout defense had no life. Suddenly, fans headed for the exits with more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The final score was 31-14 on Friday night, with the Cougars taking full advantage of Keeton's absence. When asked following USU's third defeat if Keeton is finished for the season, Aggies coach Matt Wells simply said "It doesn't look good."
Keeton initially went to the locker room but later returned to the sidelines on crutches and in street clothes. What he witnessed wasn't pretty.
"There was a deflation a little bit in the whole stadium," Wells said. "But we couldn't manufacture enough points and we couldn't sustain drives. It's tough to see your leader on offense go down right in front of you. There was a natural dejection, but I don't think it deflated us. I liked the fight in the kids tonight."
In Keeton's place, Craig Harrison struggled to an 18-for-41 night through the air, though he did toss a touchdown pass. With Keeton in the game, Utah State scored a touchdown in the first quarter. Without him, the offense couldn't move the ball with any consistency. Wells said that the playbook would need to be altered to fit Harrison's more pro-style talents. He also said that the coaching staff would examine options, and decide whether Harrison is a long-term solution.
Without Keeton's throwing and running ability, BYU's front seven dominated the matchup. Without Keeton's leadership, the Utah State offense was powerless to make any adjustments. Even worse, the defense made uncharacteristic mistakes that led to big plays. The secondary allowed BYU quarterback Taysom Hill to dominate with his arm, and not with his legs.
"The defense has to play better, or we'll lose," USU linebacker Zach Vigil said. "Obviously, Chuckie is the leader of this team and the offense. It's a huge blow, but at this point we have to move past that. We have to step up as a team."
Ags without Chuckie
• Craig Harrison goes 18-for-41 for 185 yards and a touchdown.
• USU now has three offensive starters who are out with possible season-ending injuries.
• The Aggies score a late fourth-quarter touchdown with Keeton on the sidelines.