RUSTON, La. (AP) — Kerwynn Williams scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give Utah State a lead in overtime and the Aggies stopped Louisiana Tech on four plays to win 48-41 on Saturday and clinch at least a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship.
Chuckie Keeton threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns for Utah State (9-2, 5-0), which let a 24-point, third-quarter lead slip away against one of the nation’s highest scoring teams.
The Aggies scored on their first offensive play – an 86-yard touchdown after a screen pass from Keeton to Williams – and racked up 646 yards of total offense.
Utah State jumped out to a 27-3 lead by early in the third quarter, but Louisiana Tech (9-2, 4-1) rallied to tie the game at 41 on Matt Nelson’s 32-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.
Louisiana Tech’s Colby Cameron threw an interception late in the second quarter, snapping his NCAA-record streak of 445 pass attempts without an interception.
Cameron completed 35 of 60 passes for 396 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Utah State improved its record to 2-50 against nationally-ranked teams, including a 1-39 mark on the road. The Aggies only needs to beat Idaho next week to win the conference championship.
Keeton, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound sophomore from Houston, made several big plays with his arm and his feet. The Aggies needed all of them.
Utah State took a 34-10 lead on Keeton’s 25-yard touchdown run with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter, but Louisiana Tech roared back to pull within 41-38 with 1:54 remaining after a 7-yard touchdown run by Hunter Lee.
Nelson’s field goal minutes later capped the stunning comeback, sending the game into overtime. But Louisiana Tech’s final drive fell short, with a fourth-and-3 run falling well short of the first down marker.
Utah State continues an excellent stretch of football under fourth-year coach Gary Anderson. The Aggies have won five straight and 14 of 17 dating back to last season – the best run for the program since the early 1970s.
Next to Louisiana Tech’s shocking offensive numbers this season, Utah State’s looked pedestrian. The Bulldogs came into the game among the nation’s best in nearly every offensive category, averaging 53.4 points and 576.5 yards per game.
But the Aggies provided plenty of fireworks.
The Aggies led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and had a 245-40 advantage in total yards.
The two teams traded field goals in the second quarter and Utah State took a 17-3 lead into halftime. The Bulldogs had a chance to score a touchdown late in the second quarter, but Cameron’s pass was intercepted by USU’s Will Davis in the end zone.
Utah State struck again on the first drive after halftime. A big 43-yard pass from Keeton to Chuck Jacobs set up Keeton’s 13-yard touchdown run one play later, and the Aggies took a 24-3 lead, which was stretched to 27-3 minutes later after a 30-yard field goal.
Louisiana Tech’s offense finally woke up midway through the third quarter with an 11-play, 78-yard drive that ended with Kenneth Dixon’s 2-yard touchdown run and pulled the Bulldogs within 27-10.
Dixon finished with 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
From that point, the Bulldogs were moving the ball fine. They just couldn’t stop the Aggies.
Louisiana Tech came into the game ranked No. 20 in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings and hoped to be the latest outsider to crash the BCS party. Now the Bulldogs probably won’t even win the WAC title.
If anything, it was the Aggies who looked like they were worthy of national consideration.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP