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Utah State football 2014: Late starting scrimmage still produces major fireworks

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Utah State Aggies football team's first scrimmage may have started late on Tues. Aug. 12. But it began, continued and ended with a bang unlike anything you saw during the Utah Utes scrimmage earlier Tuesday.

The Aggies first scrimmage at Romney Stadium had none of the offensive hijinks and flubs that accompanied the Utes first go-round earlier in the day.

Quarterback Chuckie Keeton proved he is all the way back from the ACL tear he suffered last year, throwing for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-22 passing--highly efficient numbers compared to what Utes QB Travis Wilson produced (8-of-21 for 101 yards, 2TD) earlier in the day.

If the Utah Utes are getting all the publicity for having a new offensive coordinator and highly touted running back, it is Utah State that should be getting all the accolades--because it appears the Aggies have started right where they left off last season.

Utah State is already getting national run from Sports Illustrated as a potential contender for the first College Football Playoff--for good reason. SI labeled Keeton "the most exciting player you don't know" in its annual College Football Preview issue Tuesday--but here's the deal: You already know this guy.

Keeton is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate with his own #Chuckie4Heisman Web site back in the spot where it was last season before he was hurt. In addition to having a productive day throwing the football on Tuesday though, Keeton also ran for another 32 yards and a touchdown, telling you that the knee is good, the legs are strong and the prognosis for a great season is better than good.

Keeton wasn't the only star player returning from an injury Tuesday night; running back Joe Hill also saw his first big-game action since tearing his ACL last year. Hill ran for 67 yards on 13 carries, scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge.

"My knee is strong and I'm just getting my confidence back," Hill said in a press release, giving Aggies faithful more hope than they already had with Keeton being back in the fold. "I didn't even think about it today, I was just making my reads and my cuts."

Wide receiver appears to be another strong suit for Utah State. On Tuesday night, the wide outs didn't disappoint either, as Keeton threw to several different receivers. Junior Hunter Sharp, a newcomer to the Aggies, had 90 yards receiving on five catches, one on a 40-yard slant and run that Keeton whizzed between two linebackers on a busted coverage play--which led to Hunter dancing easily into the end zone.

Brandon Swindall (5 catches, 29 yds, 1 TD), JoJo Natson (4-36) and Zach VanLeeuwen (4-30) were also productive for Utah State on a day when the Aggies amassed almost 500 yards of total offense. That obviously meant the Aggies defense didn't have a good day--or much of a break.

The defense managed just one score, which came from a fumble recovery at midpoint in the scrimmage. An Aggie player fumbled the football in the end zone and defensive tackle Jordan Nielsen fell on it for a touchdown.

Other than that stroke of luck, there weren't any game-breaking defensive plays--and the secondary, well, it was shredded not just by Keeton--but by Darell Garretson as well (122 yards passing on 14-of-25).

"We've got some work to do in the secondary, we know that. We're playing new guys at new positions, even in the last couple of days. That's something we can get cleaned up. I thought it was pretty clean from an offensive standpoint. There weren't very many balls on the ground," Wells said, as the lights went out at Romney Stadium during this all-important first fall camp scrimmage.