Three and Out: Chuckie Keeton, Utah State trample mistake-prone San Jose State
San Jose State had yet to win in the month of September as it entered its Friday night matchup with Mountain West rival Utah State, and thoughts of revenge were likely on the Spartans’ mind after last season’s 49-27 shellacking at the hands of the Aggies. But thanks to its own untimely turnovers, a host of penalties and some remarkable plays by Utah State’s explosive quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, San Jose State dropped its third straight game while the Aggies kicked off their conference opener on a high note.
Here are three thoughts from Utah State’s 40-12 win over San Jose State on Friday:
• Chuckie Power: Utah State’s dual-threat passer came in tied for second in the country with 14 touchdown tosses. He added three more on Friday night with 260 yards on 29-of-42 passing against a San Jose State secondary that had given up only one touchdown through the air this season.
If the Spartans were attempting to employ the same strategy against Keeton that USC tried last week — that is, forcing him to beat them with his arm, not his legs — it didn’t work. Keeton recorded 52 rushing yards and punched in his second rushing touchdown of the season while simultaneously picking apart the Spartans’ secondary. He completed 69 percent of his passes and finished without an interception; Keeton still only has one pick alongside 17 touchdown passes this year. You won’t hear as much about Keeton on a national level, but he remains among the country’s most efficient passers and is the catalyst for this Utah State offense.
• Utah State in the red zone: Viewers prepared themselves for another high-scoring Utah State affair early on against San Jose State. Keeton found the end zone twice in the first quarter for his team to take a 14-3 lead, and the Spartans weren’t having much luck stopping the Aggies’ attack. But while Utah State would end up with 40 points on the evening — right on the team average — things could have been even more lopsided were it not for some shoddy red-zone play by coach Matt Wells’ group.
The Aggies settled on four field goals on scoring drives, including three within 25 yards of the end zone. The second quarter was especially brutal, with all three of the team’s drives ending in field goals. Keeton actually ran in a touchdown with just under 13 minutes left in the second period, but a holding penalty on Utah State nullified the score and the team was relegated to a field goal. It was an unusual bit of defense from San Jose State, which had allowed nine touchdowns on 12 opponent red-zone trips coming into Friday. More than anything, the Aggies simply weren’t executing, which is unfortunate for an offense that can be potent when hitting on all cylinders. Much of the unit’s struggles came on third down, where the offense converted only 6-of-16 opportunities.
• Avert your eyes: There’s really no sugar-coating it: This wasn’t a pretty football game, and there were deficiencies on both sidelines. Utah State and San Jose State combined for 20 penalties for 203 yards on the night, and things started out particularly ugly with nine total flags in the first quarter.
San Jose State in particular found itself playing through its own mistakes on Friday when it turned the ball over four times. Quarterback David Fales spit out two of the team’s miscues, tossing two interceptions and getting bailed out of a third on a roughing the passer penalty. The senior also failed to register a touchdown pass for the first time all season despite recording 314 passing yards. When the Spartans look at game tape this week, they’ll find that strong red-zone efforts from their defense were largely undermined by a mistake-prone offense.