Utah State fell behind Tennessee, 14-0, in the first five minutes of the game and never recovered as the Volunteers rolled to a 38-7 win in the first-ever meeting between the two teams here Sunday night at historic Neyland Stadium.
In his first action since a knee injury forced him to miss the final eight games of the 2013 season, senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton completed 18-of-35 passes for 144 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, while adding 12 yards on the ground on eight carries. Junior wide receiver JoJo Natson was USU's leading rusher as he had 47 yards on two carries, while added three receptions for 18 yards. Fellow junior wide receiver Brandon Swindall had a team-best five catches for 37 yards.
Utah State's only points in the game came early in the fourth quarter as Natson rushed for 38 yards and Keeton hit junior wide receiver Hunter Sharp from 37 yards for the score to cap a 2-play, 75-yard drive that took all of 30 seconds.
Sophomore linebacker Nick Vigil recorded a career-high 15 tackles, which included 1.0 sack and 2.0 tackles for loss to lead the Aggie defense. Senior linebacker Zach Vigil added 10 stops for his 12th-career double-digit tackle outing and sophomore center Devin Centers posted a career-best nine tackles.
Utah State's defense took the field first and forced Tennessee into a three-and-out to start the game, however, USU followed with a three-and-out of its own on its first possession. UT then drove 70-yards in just six plays on its following possession for the first score of the game and then scored two plays later as the Aggies fumbled the ensuing kickoff at its own 12-yard line. Following the turnover, UT's Justin Worley connected with Brendan Downs for the 12-yard score to make the score 14-0 early on.
Utah State's defense keep the Aggies in the game throughout the first-half as it held the Volunteers without any points during its next five drives before UT kicked a 36-yard field with 1:00 to play in the half for a 17-0 halftime advantage.
Utah State had its best drive of the game on its first possession of the second-half as it went 34 yards in nine plays, but was unable to get any points as sophomore placekicker Jake Thompson just missed a 48-yard field goal.
Tennessee added another touchdown in the third quarter and then reached pay dirt again on the first play of the fourth quarter to push its lead to 31-0 before Utah State answered with its only touchdown of the game. UT finished the scoring with a final touchdown two series later to make the final score 38-7.
Utah State will return to action next weekend as it hosts Idaho State in its home opener on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. The game will be streamed live on the internet by the Mountain West Network (themw.com).