The loss slips USU to an even 2-2 while USC improves to 3-1. Saturday was the first meeting between the Aggies and Trojans since 1989, and USC is now 5-0 vs. USU.
Utah State totaled a season-low 285 yards of total offense, out-gaining USC by three yards. The Aggies' yards came by way of 179 passing and 106 on the ground. Junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton was 21-of-39 for 179 yards with two touchdown passes.
“What a hard-fought game," said head coach Matt Wells. "It came down exactly like we thought it was going to. It came down to the fourth quarter. I thought
it was going to be extremely physical and that’s exactly what it was. I’m extremely proud of those guys. They didn’t flinch no matter what was thrown at them. I’m very, very proud for the effort they gave."
Senior wide receiver Travis Reynolds tied a career-high with five catches for 70 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown catch from Keeton to tie the game at 14-14 with 6:51 to play in the third quarter. Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Swindall snared Keeton's other touchdown pass on an 8-yard second-quarter catch.
Senior running back Joey DeMartino gained 72 yards on nine carries, including a 55-yard dash to set up USU's first touchdown of the game. Junior running back Joe Hill added 51 yards rushing on five carries.
The linebacker duo of senior Jake Doughty and junior Zach Vigil posted 12 tackles each, for a new career-high by Vigil. It was also Doughty's third double-digit tackle outing of the season and seventh of his career, while Vigil now has two double-digit tackle outings this year and seventh of his career.
USC's Cody Kessler was 13-of-27 passing for 164 with one touchdown and was sacked by the Aggie defense three times, including twice by sophomore linebacker Kyler Fackrell, while Doughty logged the other.
Tre Madden posted 93 rushing yards on 24 carries and had the game's lone rushing score with a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter. Marqise Lee caught six passes for 72 yards.
The Trojans totalled 282 yards of total offense with 164 passing and 118 rushing.
“The defense had some good plays and stops, but honestly when it came down to it, we didn’t make enough," said linebacker Jake Doughty. It hurts coming in here. Time and time again in these big games, it doesn’t work out for us."
USC got on the board first with a 1-yard run by Madden with 5:41 to go in the first quarter for a 7-0 Trojan lead. That would remain the score through the end of the quarter, marking the first time in the last 12 games that the Aggies did not score in the opening stanza.
USU tied the score at 7-all with an 8-yard pass from Keeton to Swindall and an upright split by junior placekicker Nick Diaz at the 13:17 mark of the second quarter. The Trojans took a 14-7 lead with 5:13 to play in the second quarter on a 30-yard pass from Kessler to Xavier Grimble. USC's 14-7 advantage held up through the remainder of first half action and into halftime.
That would remain the score until part-way through the third stanza when Keeton connected with Reynolds to tie it up at 14-14 at the 6:51 mark of quarter number three.
After a short USU punt, the Trojans took advantage of the short field, but the Aggie defense held them to a field goal after driving to get a first-and-goal at the USU 8-yard line. Andre Heidari's 25-yard field goal with 13:35 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.
The Aggies' final scoring chance came midway through the fourth quarter, getting to the USU 41. Utah State went for it on fourth-and-nine, but the play was denied, turning the ball over to USC and the Trojans ran out the clock for the victory.
Utah State resumes Mountain West action by playing an old Western Athletic Conference foe in San Jose State on Friday, Sept. 27 in another nationally televised game on ESPN. USU returns home to host in-state foe BYU on Friday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m.