Playing his first-ever game against his hometown team, Kerwynn Williams did not disappoint.
Williams had 260 all-purpose yards as Utah State beat UNLV in its Homecoming game, 35-13 on Saturday night in front of 24,226 fans at Romney Stadium.
“Kerwynn Williams had a tremendous game, which was great to see,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “... It’s a tremendous victory and it’s great to be 4-1.”
Indeed it is for the Aggies, who racked up 564 yards of total offense against the Rebels (1-4).
Williams nearly had more offense than UNLV did as a team (305 yards) as he caught seven passes for 147 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 113 yards rushing on 20 carries.
What did it mean to Williams to have the kind of game he did against the Rebels?
“I don’t think I put any more (emphasis) on it at all,” Williams said. “If it was any other team, I would have came out with the same intentions to play as hard as I did in any other game.
“... But, I am excited for the way it turned out tonight.”
Williams’ 147 yards receiving are the most by a non-receiver since 1959.
“I’m definitely excited about that, but once again, I can’t take full credit for it,” Williams said. “My teammates around me helped me do that. (Quarterback) Chuckie (Keeton) made some great reads tonight, which allowed me to get the ball like I did.”
After the Rebels, who were playing their first road game of the season, cut the deficit to 20-13 late in the third quarter, it was Williams that gave the Aggies the momentum back for good.
The 5-foot-8 senior scored on a 74-yard screen pass from Keeton to give USU a 27-13 lead with 14:44 to go in the game.
“He definitely showed how well he can catch the ball today,” Keeton said of Williams. “... His ability to get open today and make yards after catch, that was the biggest thing.”
Keeton finished 20 of 33 for a career-high 402 yards and four touchdowns.
“The offensive line had an amazing game,” Keeton said. “They gave me a lot of time and opened up some huge holes for Kerwynn, Robert Marshall and Joe Hill.”
Besides Williams, Chuck Jacobs was a favorite target of Keeton on the night. The senior wide receiver caught four passes for a career-best 101 yards and two touchdowns.
“This was the game that Chuck really needed,” Keeton said. “I think this was the biggest one of his career at Utah State so far. He really showed what he can do.”
Bradley Randle rushed for 91 yards, while Nick Sherry passed for 188 yards and one touchdown for UNLV, which lost its 17th consecutive road game.
“First of all, they are a good team,” Rebels head coach Bobby Hauck said of the Aggies. “They did a nice job tonight. They are a pretty good outfit.”
UNLV must have given USU a wake-up call when Max Johnson hauled in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Sherry to give the Rebels a 7-3 lead with 10:45 remaining in the second quarter.
“We had the lead 7-3, which was a positive,” Hauck said.
Not only was it the first touchdown the Aggies have given up in the first half, but it was just the second time they have trailed in a game.
They weren’t behind long, though.
D.J. Tialavea caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Keeton as USU moved back in front 10-7 with 7:24 left in the opening half.
The Aggies didn’t stop there. Jacobs scored on a 50-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-7 with 5:25 remaining.
Then after Terrence Alston intercepted a pass by Sherry, USU took over on its own 18 with only 31 seconds left until intermission.
A good time to kneel and go into the locker room with a 10-point lead, right?
Not so fast. The Aggies were greedy and it paid off. It also helped they still had three timeouts left.
“It’s just a gut call in that situation,” Andersen said. “I felt like we had a little bit of flow on the offensive side of the ball. ... Sometimes I don’t do that and sometimes I do, do that. I don’t have an exact science of why, but tonight I’m glad I did.”
A 45-yard pass from Keeton to Williams on the second play of the series set USU up with a first-and-10 at the UNLV 22-yard line. Keeton then connected with Travis Reynolds for nine more yards down to the 13 with only three seconds to go.
Josh Thompson sent the Aggies into the break with a 20-7 lead as he booted a 31-yard field goal. Earlier in the quarter, the Logan High product was good from 32 yards out.
But just like it did a week ago against Colorado State, USU’s offense came out flat in the third quarter and turned the ball over twice. The Rebels held the Aggies to just 49 yards of offense in the third.
“Things were good for the most part, but there are still some things that we can work on as an offense,” Williams said.
Fortunately for USU, UNLV only managed three points off those two turnovers.
“I thought the defense was solid,” Andersen said. “... The defense bowed up, especially with the turnovers. We were stout.”
The Rebels kicked a pair of field goals in the third quarter to pare the deficit to 20-13 before Williams unleashed his game-changing touchdown.
Linebacker Jake Doughty led the Aggies with 13 tackles.
“Defensively, we played all right,” Doughty said. “We definitely have some things to work out, but I felt like, especially after that first quarter, we played hard.
“We just need to bring the intensity an bring a little bit more focus.”