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Logan • Adam Kennedy's inactivity was the biggest sign of Chuckie Keeton's production.
The Utah State coaching staff had every intention of playing both quarterbacks in USU's season-opening 42-38 loss at Auburn. Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin had every intention of letting the quarterback competition play out in Week 1 against real competition.
Instead, Keeton stole the show and locked up the starting role for the foreseeable future.
Now, the spot behind center is all his.
"We have one quarterback," Andersen said Monday.
Keeton has earned that distinction. In what was a spectacular debut to his collegiate career, the true freshman shredded Auburn's defense in large stretches. He had 213 yards through the air on 21-of-30 passing. He ran for another 33 yards and two touchdowns. And his maturity and poise stretched far beyond his individual statistics.
Keeton, from Houston, led his offense up and down the field against the Tigers. He ran twice on fourth down, scoring once and gaining a first down on a quarterback keeper. And going against Andersen's mantra of simply having a "game manager" to direct his offense, Keeton looked like a star. He looked like his predecessor, Diondre Borel.
And for his exploits, Keeton was named the Rivals.com national freshman of the week.
"I really wasn't too nervous," Keeton said. "I knew that guys around me had my back. I just came in as focused as I could be and tried to get the ball into the hands of our receivers. Ultimately, we just didn't do what we needed to do."
Through no fault of Keeton's, USU blew a 10-point lead in the final stages of what would've been one of the biggest wins in school history. Still, while not many saw Keeton bursting onto the college football platform the way he did, the signs were there.
In July, at the Western Athletic Conference media day, Robert Turbin named Keeton when he was asked which quarterback had stood out over the summer between Keeton, Kennedy and Alex Hart.
Before July, the talk around the Aggies centered on how quickly Keeton came in and successfully learned the playbook.
In the first major preseason scrimmage, Keeton made plays all over the field, and then made waves when he ran over cornerback Willie Davis. A few days later, Keeton touched off a major skirmish between the offense and the defense when he lowered his shoulder into linebacker Kyle Gallagher.
Learning the playbook quickly and effectively, when it was thought he would need time to grasp the system, put Keeton in position to compete from the outset of preseason practice. Being physical in scrimmages and practice threw the spotlight on how aggressive, confident and competitive Keeton has turned out to be.
Indeed, his best trait thus far has turned out to be his calm in the face of pressure. Against the Tigers, Keeton consistently made the right reads for first downs in the face of the Auburn blitz. He showed the ability to escape the pocket, to find the hot route and to make throws on the run.
During one preseason practice, Andersen had his defense blitz Keeton on 22 consecutive plays, just to test the rookie. Baldwin, the offensive coordinator, was harsh with Keeton in public, but privately gushed about his freshman, saying that he was going to be "special."
As it turns out, Keeton may have arrived, sooner rather than later.
"We kept waiting for Chuckie to hit a wall, but he never did," Andersen said. "While most freshmen plateau a bit as camp goes on, Chuckie just got better."
Get to know Chuckie Keeton
• Was named theRivals.com nationalfreshman of the week.
• Led Utah State to 38 points against Auburn, an SEC power.
• Originally committed to Air Force, before de-committing and pledging to USU.
• Committed to Gary Andersen's program in large part because his visit date was the same day the Aggies defeated BYU in 2010.
P Weber State (0-1) at Utah State (0-1),6 p.m.