LOGAN — Clinching bowl eligibility was cause for celebration last season and a Gatorade dump on Utah State football coach Gary Andersen.
This season it was just another Saturday.
There was no special celebration on the field for the accomplishment as Utah State (6-2, 2-0) went about its business and pounded New Mexico State (1-6, 0-3), 41-7, in front of 17,001 fans at Romney Stadium.
“Obviously a tremendous victory to be bowl eligible and to be 6-2,” Andersen said. “To win in a convincing manner at home again was a great accomplishment for the kids.”
Utah State came into the game as a huge favorite and wasted no time showing why. On the first offensive play from scrimmage Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton hit running back Kerwynn Williams for a screen pass that Williams took the distance. The 76-yard touchdown was the longest career pass for Keeton and catch for Williams and gave Utah State a 7-0 lead just 22 seconds into the game.
“I know running that play in practice this week we kind of had an idea it could go that far, if everything worked together,” Williams said.
Utah State came up with another big play on its next drive. Keeton hit his favorite deep target Chuck Jacobs for a 49-yard touchdown strike.
The haymakers continued on Utah State’s first offensive play of the second quarter. A blocked field goal gave Utah State the ball at the 24-yard line and Keeton responded with another 76-yard touchdown. This time the sophomore quarterback did it with his legs, taking a read option play to the house.
“They weren’t really keying in on me as much as Kerwynn (Williams),” Keeton said. “The defensive end ended up squeezing all the way inside. I started running and saw the corner locked on Travis Reynolds. I just ran behind him. The corner kind of paved the way for me. I was just happy to get in the endzone.”
Keeton was no stranger to the endzone — adding a second rushing touchdown in the second half — to finish with four total touchdowns to go with his 257 yards throwing and 81 rushing.
Williams led the Aggies rushing and receiving with 82 yards rushing and another 94 receiving. The Utah State offense produced back-to-back 40-point games for the first time since 2003.
“When we had the chance to make big plays we did, I thought that was very apparent,” Andersen said.
It was all about the big play for the Aggies. Utah State finished the day with seven total scoring drives, none of them lasted more than 3:38.
The big plays weren’t limited to the offense either. Cornerback Will Davis snagged his first career interception, and only the fourth pick of the year for Utah State when he picked off an Andrew Manley pass in the endzone to stop a New Mexico State drive in the second quarter.
Even the oft-maligned special teams unit got into the action producing a 44-yard punt return, a blocked New Mexico State field-goal attempt and field goal makes of 53 and 48 yards courtesy of kicker Nick Diaz. The 53-yarder was the eight-longest field goal in USU history and longest since 2008.
The win checked off bowl eligibility for the Aggies goal list.
The Aggies will continue working on their next item on the list, a WAC championship, when they continue conference play at University of Texas-San Antonio next season.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.