College football started with a bang in the state of Utah as the Utes narrowly escaped the Aggies 30-26.
And BYU fans should have watched every second of the action.
After all, the Cougars face the Utes on Sept. 21 and the Aggies just a couple of weeks later on Oct. 4. Bronco Mendenhall and the BYU coaching staff could use any intel they can get on their in-state rivals.
Thursday's game was most insightful.
So, here's the main take-away points BYU should keep in mind as they prepare for both Utah and Utah State.
First and foremost, Utah State proved that Chuckie Keeton is still a dangerous quarterback to cover.
Keeton carved up the Ute defense for 314 yards passing, 85 more rushing and three touchdowns with no interceptions. As impressive as that is, Keeton could have done even more if he wasn't fighting cramps on that unusually humid day in Salt Lake City.
As talented as the BYU front seven is, they're going to have their hands full trying to contain Keeton in Logan.
Also, senior WR Travis Van Leeuwen could pose a problem for the depleted BYU secondary. Leeuwen had a big day with five receptions for 107 yards for the Aggies. However, it was sophomore Brandon Swindall who picked up both of Utah State's receiving touchdowns.
In short, the Aggie offense looks intimidating as they outgained the Utes 487-450.
However, their defense doesn't look quite as good as last year.
Utah State finished No. 14 last season in total defense by giving up only 322 yards per game. Last season the Aggies held the Utes to just 325 yards of total offense, even though the game went into overtime.
This year, they gave up 450 yards to the Utes.
However, there's plenty of potential on this defense. Redshirt freshman LB Nick Vigil made his first collegiate sack early in the second quarter. S Maurice Alexander and junior DE B.J. Larsen also picked up one sack each and Larsen also forced a fumble.
However, the Utah State defense looked gassed at the end of the game and just couldn't make critical stops to win the game.
Still, the defense has some work to do to live up to last year.
The coaching looked solid in Matt Wells' debut as head coach, but the Aggies let up on the throttle too early. That gave the Utes the opening they needed to win the game.
That's a rookie mistake, and one coach Wells shouldn't repeat in the future.
All in all, BYU should have learned that the Aggies are just as dangerous on offense as last year while their defense has taken a small step back. They will fiercely defend Romney Stadium, so the Cougars should be ready for a big game.
Kyle Whittingham is a sneaky fellow. He called that onside kick at the perfect time and Andy Phillips and Karl Williams executed it perfectly.
The Cougars won't turn their back on a kickoff against the Utes this season.
The Utes' kicking game was solid as Phillips made all three of his field goals, including a 45-yarder. In fact, the Utes will probably depend on Phillips for much of their points this season.
Also, new starting quarterback Travis Wilson looked solid as he passed for 302 yards and two touchdowns against the Aggies. He also threw a 56-yard bomb to Dres Anderson on a critical 3rd and 14 late in the third quarter.
That said, the Utes struggled find the end zone, particularly in the second half. The only touchdown they scored after the first quarter was thanks to an onside kick.
The Utes used a committee of James Poole, Karl Williams and Kelvin York to run the ball. However, they weren't terribly impressive as the Utes averaged only 3.4 yards per carry.
Utah will have to do better than that to move the ball on Kyle Van Noy and the BYU front seven.
As for the defense, the only thing that stopped Chuckie Keeton was his own cramps. They couldn't contain him and Keeton escaped again and again from pressure and made big plays.
Taysom Hill should pay close attention to what Keeton did against the Utes. If he can replicate that performance, it's going to be a long day for the Ute defense.
The Utah defense also looked gassed by the end of the game. Granted, it is the first game of the season, so we should see the Utes in better shape by the time they play BYU.
Utah played good enough to beat Utah State Thursday, but it will have to step up its game if it wants to compete against the likes of Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and the rest of the Pac-12. However, BYU should expect a hard, drawn-out brawl against the Utes at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
All in all, BYU learned a lot about their in-state rivals on Thursday. Here's hoping that the Cougars apply that knowledge to come away with the Beehive Boot this season.
Lafe Peavler is a Deseret News sports writting intern and a national college football featured columnist for bleacher report. Follow me on Twitter @MasterPeavler
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