Utah State Edged By Akron, 23-21, In Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

 

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BOISE, Idaho - In his final game as an Aggie, redshirt senior QB Chuckie Keeton set another school record, but it still wasn't enough for Utah State to overcome three turnovers and several missed opportunities in the red zone in a 23-21 loss to Akron in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Tuesday afternoon at Albertsons Stadium

Keeton completed 14-of-25 passes for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception. With his 108 yards of total offense against the Zips, the native of Houston, Texas, became the school's all-time leader in total offense with 8,803 career yards. Jose Fuentes (2000-02) held the previous record of 8,791 total yards.

Keeton's lone touchdown pass came with 1:12 remaining in the game, a 2-yarder to senior WR Brandon Swindall that pulled Utah State to within 23-21. Overall, Keeton's 62-career touchdown passes are also a school-best.

The Aggies then attempted an onside kick, but it was recovered by Akron junior CB DeAndre Scott. However, Utah State got the ball back one final time after forcing the Zips to go three-and-out.

Following a punt by Akron, the Aggies took over on their own 12-yard line with just six seconds remaining in the game. Keeton completed an 8-yard pass to senior WR Hunter Sharp, but the clock ran out on Utah State following a couple of laterals that only went backward.

With the loss, the Aggies finished with a 6-7 overall record and had their school-record three-game bowl winning streak snapped. Utah State was playing in its school-record fifth consecutive bowl game.

Sophomore QB Thomas Woodson was 14-of-29 for 168 yards and one interception for Akron (8-5), which won its first-ever bowl game.

Like Keeton, sophomore QB Kent Myers also completed 14 passes on 20 attempts for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior WR Hunter Sharp was Keeton and Myers' favorite target on the day as he caught 11 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. With those 11 catches, Sharp ends his career with 137 receptions, which ranks ninth in school history. He finished the season with 71 catches, which ranks seventh in school history.

Utah State's Devante Mays led all rushers in the game with 124 yards on just 12 carries. The junior RB finished the season with 966 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 165 carries.

Defensively, the Aggies were led by senior LB LT Filiaga and senior NG David Moala, who had eight tackles apiece. Moala, who also had 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks, tied his career high with those eight stops. Sophomore CB Jalen Davis recorded Utah State's lone turnover of the day when he intercepted a pass by Woodson in the second quarter.

The Aggies took their only lead of the game when they took the second-half kickoff and marched 64 yards to paydirt in seven plays. Sharp capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown reception from Myers, giving Utah State a 14-13 lead with 12:41 left in the third quarter. Myers set up the score with a 27-yard run on third-and-17 from the Zips' 46.

Akron cashed in on the Aggies' third turnover of the day and went in front for good on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior RB Donnell Alexander, making it 20-14 with 5:43 to go in the third.

The Zips increased their lead to 23-14 with 8:15 to go in the fourth quarter when Robert Stein booted a 46-yard field goal. The senior PK became Akron's all-time leading scorer with the kick, which capped a 14-play drive that ate up nearly seven minutes off the clock.

Akron struck first on a trick play when redshirt junior WR Tyrell Goodman threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Woodson for a 7-0 lead with 10:38 remaining in the first quarter. Fackrell nearly disrupted the play, but Goodman got the pass off just in time.

The Zips made it 10-0 with 2:53 remaining in the second quarter courtesy of a 33-yard field goal by Stein.

However, the Aggies fought back on the ensuing possession when junior RB Devante Mays broke free for a career-long 61-yard run to give Utah State a first down at the Zips' nine-yard line. Two plays later, sophomore QB Kent Myers threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to senior WR Brandon Swindall to pull the Aggies within 10-7 with 1:32 left in the opening half.

Akron was forced to punt on the very next possession and it appeared as if Utah State would get a chance to either tie the game or take the lead before the break. The Aggies drove to the Zips' 28-yard line with less than a minute to go, but Myers was sacked by Akron senior LB Jatavis Brown, who also forced a fumble on the play.

The Zips' Rodney Coe, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound redshirt senior DT, scooped up the loose ball and headed for the south end zone. Fortunately for Utah State, junior RT Jake Simonich tracked Coe down from behind, but not before he rumbled 56 yards to the Aggies' 12.

The turnover set up a half-ending 29-yard field goal by Stein, giving the Zips a 13-7 lead at the break.

The Aggies were their own worst enemy in the first half. On their first four drives of the game, they went three-and-out. On top of that, Utah State twice reached the red zone only to come away empty-handed as Keeton was intercepted by senior CB Kris Givens and the Aggies muffed a snap on a 35-yard field goal attempt.

Redshirt freshman P Aaron Dalton punted extremely well in the first half as he averaged 49.2 yards on four punts, including a career-long and bowl-record 69-yarder. Two of his punts were downed inside the five-yard line.