Heroes step up in Keeton's absence, hope to continue trend

Nov 11 2011 - 7:48pm

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LOGAN -- Gary Andersen was more than pleased with him.

One would wonder why he would have felt any different than the alumni, students and community. After all, Adam Kennedy's second-half heroics after replacing the injured Chuckie Keeton led Andersen's team to a thrilling last-second victory over a Hawaii program that has been pushing a Heisman campaign with its signal-caller, Bryant Moniz. It has resulted in a renewed optimism for the Aggies (3-5, 1-2) as they prepare to face San Jose State (3-6, 2-3) at Romney Stadium this afternoon.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

"I'm not surprised that Adam came off the bench and played well," said Andersen, who coached USU to its largest comeback since 2001, when the Aggies rallied from 27-0 to beat Idaho State. "I'm probably not the best guy in America, as emotional as I am, to sit down and communicate with the quarterback, but he was composed. Obviously he was preparing the right way. I think that shows maturity in a program and in Adam. He was ready to go and hopefully that's contagious throughout the program when opportunities present themselves."

Indeed, despite the high marks, Andersen or anyone who saw Saturday's game would understand there was more than one hero in the season-salvaging project. Chuck Jacobs helped show how USU is a threat through the air, as well, after tallying 70 receiving yards with a touchdown reception from Keeton. Receiver Stanley Morrison was named WAC player of the week, the first such conference honor in his career, after converting two fake punts to keep USU drives alive, one of which resulted in a touchdown.

The score was part of the Aggies' 28-point second-half scoring barrage to overcome a 28-7 first-half deficit. Morrison topped his previous highlights with a spectacular 71-yard grab in which he wrested the ball away from the defender before taking the haul the rest of the way into the end zone. That quick score slashed the Warrior lead to three before Kennedy led the game-winning drive moments later.

"The longer I was in the game the more I knew the game could turn around," said Morrison. "When I caught (Kennedy's touchdown throw), it's pretty much one of those things that makes or breaks a game. When it comes to you, you just got to take it and run with it."

Morrison said that while both conversions only came after being given the option from the sideline to punt, he would have been remiss to have passed up wide-open players like Bobby Wagner, who missed the catch but was redeemed when running back Joe Hill caught the tipped throw nearly 10 yards behind Wagner.

"I gave Bobby a little heat," Morrison said of the WAC-leading tackler's near-reception. "I'm very grateful Joe was behind."

It was indeed a night that did eventually bounce the Aggies' way, but only after Keeton sustained what team physician Dr. Trek Lyons described as a "rapid flexion" of his neck. Kennedy initially fumbled the snap before recovering and getting the ball to Turbin for the go-ahead score.

"Getting over those so-called fourth quarter blues was a big deal for us," Kennedy said. "I think this was a big win for the entire program, not just this particular season. I think everyone feels good looking forward and hopefully we can string a couple wins together here and get to a bowl game."

"We have fans that can be as good as Auburn, as good as LSU," he said. "I think our crowd will do that for us (Saturday)."

Chuckie status

Andersen said in his radio show Thursday that Kennedy is scheduled to start today, though that may change if Keeton feels healthier than expected by game time. Keeton was named to the College Football Performance Awards 2011 National Freshman Performer of the Year Trophy Watch List on Thursday. The true freshman is one of just 20 players on the list, including just one of five players from non-BCS schools.

Though Kennedy acknowledged his role in the offense when Keeton is prepared to take game-time snaps again, he's glad for the opportunities he has received.

"The coaches do a great job of getting all second-team players a chance to get reps, including second-team offense players going against first-team defense players," he said. "It really helps you feel when you are going into a game at any moment, you feel prepared and ready to go. They do a great job of preparing you like you are going to be the guy."

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