Betterson, Troy run past Aggies

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 3, 2004

All that separated Utah State from Troy University in the first half was 40 yards.

Forty yards and 35 points.

The Trojans got most of what they needed Saturday. They pounded the Aggies 49-21, played a lot of people and won their first Sun Belt Conference home game.

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"It was a heck of a win for us," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. "We stuck our chin out there. We called it a must-win and it was a must-win."

And it wasn't in doubt. Troy's 35-0 halftime lead was its largest since leading 41-0 in a 41-3 victory over Austin Peay in 2002.

There were plenty of highlights:

€ Quarterback Aaron Leak was outstanding. He threw three first-half touchdown passes and finished 9-for-10 passing for 120 yards.

€ Tailback DeWhitt Betterson carried 28 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns – including a 44-yarder for the game's final score with 4:48 remaining.

€ Freshman Leodis McKelvin returned an interception 71 yards for a touchdown. It was the second longest in Troy's Division I-A history, trailing only Rayshun Reed's 73-yard return for a touchdown against Mississippi State in 2001.

McKelvin added a 61-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, Troy's longest since Demontray Carter's 94-yard return for a touchdown in 2001 against Southern Utah.

€ Demarcus Ware sacked Utah State quarterback Travis Cox three times, tying a career high for a sacks in a game.

€ Troy's Freeman White had an interception in the second quarter and returned it 20 yards. He broke up two other passes, made eight tackles and was Troy's Scholar-Athlete of the Week for the game.

"Leak played his best game," Blakeney said. "And DeWhitt was just DeWhitt."

Offensive coordinator Mark Fleetwood had been waiting for the offensive fireworks.

"We needed a breakout day," Fleetwood said. "I guess it was time for that. We had a good week of practice.

"It's fun to be able to help the defense. The defense played very well. It's fun to see how good it can be when we're helping the defense. Now we have to raise it to another level."

Leak said the team knew the situation with an

0-1 Sun Belt Conference record going into the game.

"We had a sense of urgency this week," the senior quarterback said. "It came down to executing the offense. The coaches can only get us to a limit – then it's up to us."

Leak also said it's much easier to execute when the team isn't trailing and facing long-yardage situations.

"They didn't know what we were going to do," Leak said. "If it's third-and-15, defenses drop back eight or nine into pass coverage.

When DeWhitt's running the ball like that, it takes a lot of pressure off me. If they have to put eight in the box to stop the run, I'm throwing routes against man-to-man coverage."

Leak led an 11-play, 80-yard march with the game's first possession for a touchdown. Jermaine Richardson capped the drive with a 10-yard run. Greg Whibbs made the first of seven extra points.

Leak tacked on touchdown passes of 13 yards to Jason Samples, 7 yards to Joe Munson and 8 yards to Samples again.

McKelvin's 71-yard interception return with 47 seconds left in the first half thwarted a Utah State drive and made it 35-0.

Betterson scored on a 9-yard run on Troy's first drive of the second half to make it 42-0 early in the third quarter.

At that point, the Trojans (3-2 overall, 1-1 Sun Belt) were able to play a lot of reserves. But those starters were forced to come back as Utah State (2-3, 1-1) scored three touchdowns in about seven minutes.

Cox hit Raymond Hicks for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Kevin Robinson returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown – the longest ever by an opponent in Troy. Chris Forbes scored on a 1-yard run that made it 42-21 with 13:44 remaining in the game.

The Trojans have an open date this week and return to action at Arkansas State in Jonesboro, Ark., on Oct. 16.