Sept. 3, 2011
AUBURN, Ala. - Utah State football had the defending national champions, No. 23/19 Auburn, on the ropes Saturday afternoon, taking a 38-28 lead with 3:38 left, but the Aggies' upset bid came up short with a 42-38 loss on a hot and humid Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
USU took a 38-28 lead with 3:38 to play on a 1-yard TD plunge by senior running back Robert Turbin, his second of the day in his return to the USU lineup after missing the 2010 season with an injury. Auburn marched down the field, getting a long pass play helped by a personal foul, and later scored, pulling within 38-35 with 2:07 to go.
On the ensuing kick, the Tigers kicked an on-side kick, and recovered the high bouncing kick. Eight plays later, Auburn's Michael Dyer crept through the pile and over the goal line for the score, taking the 42-38 lead with 30 seconds left. But the Aggies couldn't get out of their own half of the field in the waning seconds to end the game.
Freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton was 21-of-30 passing for 213 yards and added two rushing TD's as part of 33 rushing yards in his Aggie debut. Turbin rushed for 70 yards on 22 carries with two TD's while junior running back Kerwynn Williams had 69 yards on the ground, including a 43-yard TD run to open USU's scoring. Junior wide receiver Matt Austin had six catches for 67 yards, both career-highs, as he had only one catch for 59 yards in the first half of last year's season-opener at Oklahoma before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Senior wide receiver Stanley Morrison also returned to action after missing the 2010 season with an injury, and had two catches, extending his career streak with at least one catch to 25-straight games, and also threw an 8-yard pass on a fake field goal to set up USU's final TD.
Senior linebacker Bobby Wagner led the USU defensive unit with 10 tackles, including two for loss with one being a sack. Fellow senior linebacker Kyle Gallagher notched seven stops and junior safety McKade Brady logged six tackles.
USU had 227 yards rushing and 221 passing yards for 448 yards of total offense. The Aggie defense held Auburn to just 78 rushing yards, while the Tigers threw for 286 yards, finishing with 364 total offensive yards.
The Aggies got on the board first, as Williams darted through a huge hole created by the USU offensive line, and scored from 43-yards out. Auburn tied it on a 56-yard pass play by Emory Blake from Barrett Trotter, who was also making his first career start.
Keeton scored his first career TD on a three-yard scamper on a fourth-and-goal play, one of three fourth downs converted by the Aggies, and Turbin later scored his first TD of the game. Sophomore placekicker Josh Thompson's PAT made it 21-7 in the Aggies' favor with 7:58 to go. Keeton's run capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 7:27 on the clock, while Turbin's run ended a 16-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:52.
Tre Mason returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a TD with 7:46 on the first half clock, and the score remained 21-14 with USU ahead at the half.
Auburn tied it at 21-all on a Dyer 11-yard run, but USU later took a 24-21 lead on Thompson's first field goal of his Aggie career, splitting the uprights from 34-yards out with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter. Trotter later hit Travante Stallworth with a 39-yard pass play for a TD with 1:57 to play in the third stanza, giving the Tigers a 28-24 lead that they held on to end the quarter.
Keeton darted in from 7-yards out for his second score of the day that was the 14th play of an 80-yard drive, taking 5:37 off the clock for a 31-28 Aggie advantage. After the USU defense forced its fourth three-and-out of the game, the Aggie offense got the ball back. Keeton led the USU charge deep into Auburn territory, before facing a fourth-and-three from the AU 5, USU took a delay of game penalty to get a better angle for the field goal, going back to the AU 10. The Aggies lined up for the field goal, but faked it, with Morrison rolling out and hitting sophomore tight end D.J. Tialavea with a diving catch just shy of the goal line. After an official review confirmed the catch, two plays later Turbin plowed over from a yard out, giving USU a 38-28 lead with 3:38 to go, setting up the game's final drama.
Utah State will make its 2011 home season opener on Saturday, Sept. 10, hosting in-state foe Weber State. The Beehive State battle between the Aggies and Wildcats will kick off at 6 p.m. at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. It marks the first time that USU and WSU have squared off since 2001, and Utah State leads the all-time series, 11-1. The Aggie-Wildcat match-up will have special meaning for USU head coach Gary Andersen, who will be facing his mentor, Weber State head coach Ron McBride, as Andersen played for McBride at Utah in 1985-86.
Saturday is also USU Hall of Honor Day, honoring the 2011 Class to the USU Hall of Honor at halftime.
For USU football ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305 or on-line 24 hours a day at www.utahstateaggies.com under the "tickets" drop down menu.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball, through facebook at "Utah State Football," or through the USU football blog at usufootball.wordpress.com. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
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