SEATTLE – Utah State’s trip to Washington was a painful one. Behind the passing attack of freshman quarterback Jake Browning, the Washington Huskies beat the Aggies 31-17 as quarterback Chuckie Keeton struggled and limped along the way.
The Husky offense racked up 442 yard of total offense, 368 of those were through the air. USU head coach Matt Wells said the defense’s consistency was a problem. Safety Devin Centers said there wasn’t necessarily anything specific Washington was doing to pick up so many yards through the air, but just that they had big plays.
“They happen,” he said. “We’ve got to limit them. We’ve got to stop them.”
Like the defense, Wells called the offense “inconsistent.” The Aggies had 254 total offensive yards, 83 were on the ground. Keeton completed 17 of 33 passes for 171 yards with two interceptions.
“If you don’t get a good run game established, and for whatever reason it wasn’t established, you get behind in a game,” Wells said. “I didn’t think we did a very good job of establishing the run up front.”
Keeton finished the game, but at times backup quarterback Damion Hobbs replaced him for a few snaps. Wells never suggested injury to be the reason Hobbs played, but said part of it was to “give Chuckie a break” and to “change things up just a bit.” He wouldn’t comment on the extent of Keeton’s injury.
“My policy will always be to comment on a season-ending injury, and he’s not a season-ending injury,” he said.
The game started poorly for Utah State. They fell behind 10-0 early in the second quarter when Husky running back Dwayne Washington caught an 81-yard touchdown pass. Hunter Sharp’s 60-yard kick return the following play helped get the Aggies good field position, and Devonte Mays added to it with a 20-yard run that put them in a first-and-goal situation. After two failed runs and an incomplete pass intended for Sharp, the Aggies settled for a field goal and cut the Husky lead to 10-3 with 10:31 left in the half.
“I think (Sharp) came out and played well,” Wells said. “We continued to get the ball to him in different ways. He’s a good receiver, he’s a strong runner.”
Washington retaliated with quarterback Jake Browing’s arm on the next possession. Browning threw for 49 yards before the kicking team came out on fourth-and-goal from the USU 2-yard line. Washington called a fake, and kicker Tristan Vizcaino ran the ball in untouched to give the Huskies a two-touchdown lead.
The Aggies bounced back and scored on the next possession, and Sharp was once again an instrumental part of it. He caught two more passes for 60 yards. The second was a 49-yard reception on third-and-10 and was brought down just feet from the endzone. Nose guard David Moala was brought in to run the ball and scored a touchdown, cutting the lead to 17-10 at half.
The third quarter started with an Aggie interception from Centers, but the Huskies took the ball back with an interception of their own three plays later. For Wells, the interception obviously wasn’t what he wanted, but it wasn’t completely deflating.
“It was a third-and-long,” he said. “(Keeton) ended up taking a shot against a coverage that we liked. When it was a pick, in a lot of terms, it was just like a punt.”
The rest of the quarter didn’t go according to USU’s plan either. Washington outscored the Aggies 14-0 during the third while Browning seemed to have his way with the USU secondary.
The Aggies had an opportunity to put some second-half points on the board early in the fourth quarter when USU recovered a Washington fumble, but Keeton was intercepted and the ball was returned 95 yards, stopping just feet from the USU goal line. Even though the return looked like a sure touchdown, Sharp chased down the sprinting Husky and stopped him just in time.
“It’s something that you show on tape, its a really unselfish play is what it is,” Wells said. “You (have) got to have more of it. That stuff has got to permeate a team and a program.”
Sharp’s tackle saved a touchdown, and helped the Aggies score one of their own. While trying to score from near the goal line, Washington fumbled the ball and Jontrell Rocquemore took it back 97 yards for the last score of the game.
After the loss, the Aggies fall to 1-2 on the season and will have a bye week before the homecoming game against Colorado State October 3.