Oct 8, 2013

Tyler Larsen Stays By Keeton's Side After Season Ending Injury

Column: USU loses star QB in first quarter to knee injury

Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013 12:46 am
By Shawn Harriston

Utah State center Tyler Larsen kneels over quarterback Chuckie Keeton
after he got injured during their game against BYU, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013,
 in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/The Herald Journal, Eli Lucero)

It’s been said — mostly whispered really — that the Aggies can not afford one guy in particularly to go down with an injury.
Well, it happened Friday night on Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. Yep, Utah State lost quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury. The silence in the stadium was deafening.
How long he will be out?
That is not officially being announced yet. However, Aggie head football coach Matt Wells said after the game: “It does not look good.”
And neither did the Aggies after their leader went down at the 4:06 mark of the first quarter against in-state rival BYU.
Well, that’s not entirely true or fair. The USU defense did come out fired up when No. 16 was hurt, forcing the Cougars into back-to-back three-and-out possessions. But that faded.
When Keeton left the field supported by teammates and later was seen on crutches and a brace on his left knee, the six-point favorite Aggies were trailing 10-7. BYU went on to beat USU for the third straight year, 31-14.
It was not close and many of the 25,513 fans left before the final minutes of the game. It was definitely not what Aggie fans had expected before the opening kickoff.
Many prognosticators were picking USU by two touchdowns. The Aggies (3-3) felt like they should have won the last two meetings, each were three-point setbacks in Provo. Rabid USU fans were drooling at the possibility of sound beating like the last time the Cougars came to Logan — a 31-16 victory which the score really wasn’t that close.
But that didn’t happen, obviously. The one guy USU could ill afford to lose was out for more than three quarters.
The coach tried to downplay focusing on losing to BYU (3-2).
“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, so I don’t know if you could say we are any more disappointed,” Wells said. “... It is disappointing to lose.”
While the coach is well aware of what this game means to fans, he is also trying to keep his guys up. There is plenty left to play for as far as the Mountain West Conference goes.
Still, playing BYU means a lot to those who cheer for USU.
“Our goals have not changed,” Aggie linebacker Zach Vigil said. “We want to win the Mountain West Conference. But there is a pride thing. We want to win the in-state games.”
They mean a lot to Aggie fans, who constantly feel overlooked by Utah and BYU in the Beehive State. USU had already suffered a heartbreaker in Salt Lake City to open the 2013 season. Now this.
Still, there is a positive Wells wanted to stress as most of the postgame talk centered on Keeton and his backup Craig Harrison. USU is 2-0 in the Mountain West. The Aggies control their destiny in the league.
“It wasn’t the script we had written or planned. ... Right now we are facing a lot of adversity,” Wells said. “I said before the game and I’ll say now, we’re 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference. To find a way to compete for that championship we’re going to have to regroup and win as a team.
“This is the greatest team sport ever invented and not one kid can win it. We’ve said that in this program that we’re not a bunch of individuals and we’re not about one kid. We’re about to find out if we are or not.
Yes, that is true.
But a player that is a Heisman Trophy candidate is hard to replace.
Harrison realizes he has “big shoes to fill.”
If Keeton is out for an extended period of time, there will be challenges. The first is a date with conference power Boise State next Saturday.
Before Keeton went down, I strongly felt USU could beat the Broncos. I also felt they would triumph over the Cougars by double digits.
Keeton is a big part of this Aggies. He is one player that does mean a lot to the team.
But Wells is right, other players need to be ready to answer the call when needed. Two years ago, Adam Kennedy took over for an injured Keeton and guided USU to a bowl game.
Can Harrison do that now?
“I feel prepared,” Harrison said. “I’m not Chuckie. He’s an outstanding player. ... But I have faith in the coaches and faith in every player that we’ll be able to shape and mold the offense to my strengths. We’ll be able to come out and be successful.”
It’s good to know he has confidence. This season had so much promise, but is it in jeopardy now?
“Obviously Chuckie’s a great leader of this whole team and this offense,” Vigil said. “Losing him is obviously a huge blow to us as a team. But at this point of the season we have to move past that and depend on another guy. I know we can do it; we have the people to do it. ... The defense has to play better. We have to play better or we will lose.”
It will definitely be interesting to see how the Aggies respond. They still have a lot to play for, and the Mountain West does have six bowl games.

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