USC leaned heavily on a dominant defensive performance as they shut down Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton and bested the Aggies of Utah State, 17-14.
Limiting the Aggies to their lowest point totals of the season, the Trojan defense starred by limiting Keeton to 179 yards passing and -15 yards rushing while sacking him four times.
Cody Kessler faced similar pressure and was sacked three times. He finished the day 13-27 with 164 yards passing and a touchdown. Tre Madden led the Trojan rushing attack with 98 yards on 24 carries, just missing the 100-yard mark for the first time this season.
It was Madden who got the scoring started in the first quarter as he took a sweep to the right for a one-yard touchdown. The sophomore’s second rushing touchdown of the year capped a 7-play, 45-yard drive for USC which was highlighted by a 19-yard Kessler completion to Nelson Agholor. Two Aggie penalties inside the ten-yard line set up the Trojans in short-yardage.
After a missed Utah State field goal, Joey DeMartino broke free on a 55-yard run. Thanks to the efforts of Demetrius Wright, who chased him down, he was pushed out of bounds at the USC 8-yard line. Keeton then hit Brandon Swindall for the first touchdown against the Trojan first team defense this season to tie the game at a touchdown apiece.
A heavy dose of Madden, complimented by freshman Justin Davis, started the next Trojan scoring drive. Kessler found tight end Xavier Grimble down the middle for a 30 yard touchdown.
As the Trojan pass rush found more and more success pressuring Keeton and limiting the Utah State offense, USC looked primed to increase their lead before the half as Kessler hit Marqise Lee for a 33-yard gain down the left side. The next play, however, Kessler was sacked and fumbled, giving the ball back to USU near midfield with plenty of time to score.
George Uko helped swing momentum back USC’s way immediately by sacking Keeton on first down. Two incomplete passes followed and the Aggies were forced to punt.
The Trojans went into the half up 14-7 and when both teams emerged again to start the second half it was clear that USC’s defense was in Keeton’s head. A Keeton scramble for no gain and two more incompletions resulted in a three-and-out on Utah State’s first drive.
With good starting field position after a short punt, USC drove to the USU 27, but the move stalled and Andre Heidari kicked a 46-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Utah State employed a hurry up offense to get the Trojan defense on their heels and this time Joe Hill found space for a 24-yard run to put the Aggies in scoring position. Keeton found Travis Reynolds for the game-tying touchdown midway through the third quarter.
With both teams trading unsuccessful drives, USC finally had a chance to take the lead once more as Utah State’s punter shanked a kick off the side of his foot for a net of 12-yard and set the Trojans up at the USU 24 yard line. Though they moved inside the Aggie 5-yard line, USC couldn’t manage to find the endzone and Andre Heidari was called upon to kick a 25-yard field goal to retake the lead. This time his aim was true.
Utah State found little in the way of offensive production once the lead was lost as the Trojan defense stiffened and kept Keeton and the Aggie offense from crossing midfield for the rest of the game, even as the USC offense became more and more inept. Kessler had six straight incompletions in the fourth quarter and the Trojans turned away from the run game as Madden seemed to tire.