UNLV football:

Chuckie Keeton and the Aggies to become familiar foe in Mountain West next year

Keeton, who threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns, will have two more chances to face the Rebels when Utah State joins the league in 2013

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Associated Press

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) celebrates on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against UNLV on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

UNLV vs. Utah State

Utah State linebacker Jake Doughty, left, and other Utah State players tackle UNLV running back Tim Cornett (35) for a safety in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, in Logan, Utah. Utah State  defeated UNLV  35-13.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Launch slideshow »

LOGAN, Utah — The only good part about a non-conference loss is that unless it’s the beginning of a series, you don’t have to see that team or its star player again. However, thanks to conference realignment, Saturday night’s 402-yard passing performance was just UNLV’s appetizer for two more years of Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton.

The sophomore wasn’t consistent through the entire game, but in the second and fourth quarters he and the offense exploded on the Rebels in a 35-13 victory. And while UNLV is done with Las Vegas native Kerwynn Williams, it’s only getting started with Keeton and a solid defense.

Williams amassed 260 total yards and a touchdown and fellow senior Chuck Jacobs caught two touchdowns. All of Utah State’s other playmakers are coming back.

“The offensive line had an amazing game,” said Keeton, who completed 20-of-33 passes for four touchdowns. “They gave me a lot of time and opened up some huge holes for Kerwynn, Robert Marshall and Joe Hill.”

Marshall is a junior. Hill, a sophomore, turned a screen pass in to a 65-yard gain. The Aggies are on the upswing just as they prepare to enter the Mountain West next season.

Much like UNR and Fresno State this year, Utah State may compete for the league title during its first season in the conference.

The Aggies’ biggest challenge in achieving that goal may be replacing Williams, a Valley alum. He dazzled against his hometown team with 113 yards on the ground and 147 through the air, the most for a nonreceiver at Utah State since 1959.

“He played with some zest,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “He’s got a little more speed than I expected from watching on film.”

Williams’ stellar day on the ground made it easy for Keeton to sit back in the passing game and not look to run as much as he usually does. Keeton is the team’s second-leading rusher and even on Saturday night he finished with the second-most attempts, though two of those were just sacks.

“There were a couple times where I should have ran instead of trying to force the ball in,” Keeton said.

Generally with mobile quarterbacks the problem is they end up running too much, so the Aggies would gladly deal with this instead.

The 74-yard score off a screen pass on the first play of the fourth quarter was a career long for both Keeton and Williams. For the latter, it’s a nice memory in a special game of his final season.

For the former, it’s a mark that will surely be eclipsed in the coming weeks or years. This team and this quarterback could be the real deal, and starting next year for the Rebels it counts in the conference standings, too.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Utah State wil always be a difficult team to defeat