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USC defense smothers Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton

Leonard Williams-130921-TOS.jpg

Is it too late for Utah State to request a refund on any #Chuckie4Heisman promotional materials it had purchased? Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton was swallowed up by a dominating defensive performance from USC, allowing the Trojans to come away with a face-saving 17-14 win Saturday.

USC allowed 285 yards of total offense. Take away a 55-yard run from Joey DeMartino and a 42-yard pass from Keeton to Travi Reynolds, and Utah State managed 2.89 yards on its other 65 plays.

Defensive end Leonard Williams had a team-high eight tackles for USC, with three stops behind the line of scrimmage against an experienced Utah State offensive line led by center Tyler Larsen. Outside linebacker Morgan Breslin added two sacks of Keeton, who was never able to get on track.

Keeton was just 21-of-39 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns and had minus-15 rushing yards after coming into the game averaging 370 yards of total offense in his first three games.

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's new 5-2 scheme has held all four of USC's opponents under 300 yards of total offense this season, yielding 8.75 points per game. And head coach Lane Kiffin's floundering offense would have been in dire straits without that performance, converting 3-of-14 third downs and turning second-half drives that started at the Utah State 24-, 34-, 30- and 47-yard line into just three points.

Without the dramatic defensive turnaround, Kiffin might already have been given the pink slip. The USC passing game continues to struggle despite the presence of All-America wide receiver Marqise Lee (six receptions for 72 yards), and pass protection has been a glaring issue as the Trojans head into the teeth of the schedule.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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