It’s not as easy as it used to be, but Travis Wilson made sure Utah is back to beating Utah State again.
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Wilson threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns to help Utah edge Utah State 30-26 in the season-opener on Thursday night.
Wilson, a sophomore who was unexpectedly pressed into the starting lineup because of injuries last year, played error-free while completing 17 of 28 passes and rushed for a key first down on Utah’s final drive.
Last season, the Aggies snapped a 12-game skid against the Utes, 27-20 in overtime, and used the game as a springboard to a school-record 11-2 record.
Chuckie Keeton, who completed 31-of-40 passes for 314 yards, scored on a 15-yard run to give the Aggies a 23-14 lead early in the second half and the visiting Aggies fans’ cheers echoed in the suddenly quiet stadium. But the Utes roared back.
Andy Phillips kicked a 45-yard field goal and then Karl Williams, who lost a fumble earlier in the third quarter, recovered the ensuing onside kick. Williams finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown rush and Utah led 24-23.
Keeton led USU on a 68-yard drive that stalled when he had to leave the game for a play near the goal line because of an apparent cramp. Diaz made a 24-yard field goal to put the Aggies ahead 26-24 with 11:20 remaining.
The Utes were hampered by a lack of big-play ability in a 5-7 campaign last season, but in this game Utah thrived on plays like Wilson’s 35-yard pass to Denham that led to Phillips kicking a 19-yard field goal with 6:38 to play. Utah led 27-26.
Denham became Wilson’s favorite target and set career highs with six receptions for 113 yards after Kenneth Scott was lost for the season, according to the school, with a lower leg injury early in the game.
After finally reining in Keeton on the next drive and forcing a punt, the Utes diverted from their no-huddle, hurry-up offense and rushed nine straight times which caused the Aggies to take all three of their timeouts. Wilson converted a key third-down with a determined keeper up the middle to keep the clock running. Phillips capped the drive with a 38-yard field goal, his third of the night, with 19 seconds left.
The Aggies had time for just two plays and Keeton’s final pass fluttered high above his intended receiver and landed harmlessly in the end zone.
The Utes now lead the series 78-29-4 in the FBS’s 12th-longest rivalry.
Utah State entered the season on a seven-game winning streak, tied for fourth longest in the nation. In the midst of their best stretch in 50 years, the Aggies have won 16 of their last 20 games and the four setbacks are by a combined 10 points.