Utah State football completed its second spring scrimmage Friday evening on Merlin Olsen Field in Romney Stadium as fourth-year head coach Gary Andersen ran his team through 81 plays, including 64 offensive snaps and 17 special teams situations.
In all, Utah State’s offense scored three touchdowns and converted three field goals while the Aggie defense recorded two interceptions and turned USU’s offense away without any points on a red-zone scenario that started at the 12-yard line.
"Overall it was a good scrimmage,” said Andersen. “We stayed fairly healthy, which is always a positive for us. The defense started fast and the offense started slow, especially in the back-up drive-up scenarios. That kind of flip-flopped when we got up on the 50-yard line and the offense kind of answered back. As the scrimmage went on, it evened out. There was give and take on both sides, and that's kind of what you're hopeful for.”
Freshman linebacker Travis Parrish recorded the first highlight of the scrimmage on Utah State’s second series as he intercepted senior quarterback Adam Kennedy. USU then scored its first of three touchdowns courtesy of a 3-yard run by sophomore running back Joe Hill to cap a nine-play, 50-yard drive.
Utah State later scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives as junior running back Joey DeMartino scored from 27 yards out, followed by a 25-yard pass and catch from sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton to senior wide receiver Chuck Jacobs.
Overall, Keeton completed 9-of-13 passes for 98 yards with one touchdown, while Kennedy was 7-of-13 for 42 yards with one interception as USU finished the scrimmage 18-of-30 passing for 155 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
DeMartino was one of 10 Aggies to carry the ball Friday and finished the scrimmage with 50 yards on 10 carries, highlighted by his 27-yard scoring run. Hill added 22 yards on seven carries to go along with one score, while Keeton had 18 yards on three carries. In all, USU rushed 34 times for 143 yards with two scores.
On special teams, Utah State finished three drives with field goals as junior Nick Diaz connected from 45 yards out, while fellow junior Josh Thompson made a 34-yard attempt and sophomore Jacob Haueter was good from 30 yards. In all, USU’s kickers were 7-for-9 on field goal attempts and a perfect 3-for-3 on PAT’s.
"I'm real happy with the kickers this week, they’re striking it well, but I'm guarded when I say that. They know I'm guarded when I say that and I tell them the same thing. They're feeling more comfortable and confident, and the ball has been coming off their feet pretty well,” Andersen said.
Defensively, redshirt freshman linebacker Kyler Fackrell and sophomore linebacker Tavaris McMillian each had four tackles Friday, while fellow redshirt freshman linebacker Derek Keller and freshman lineman Jordan Nielsen added three stops apiece. Sophomore wide receiver Rashard Stewart, who has moved over to the defensive side of the ball, ended the scrimmage by intercepting a pass from freshman quarterback Daniel Wray.
Next week, Utah State is tentatively scheduled to practice Tuesday and Thursday mornings in final tune-up for the Blue-White Spring Game presented by Orbit Irrigation Products on Saturday, April 28, at 2 p.m. at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. Admission will again be free to the public and further details along with events surrounding the Spring Game will be released next week.
Practices are currently scheduled to be open to the public but are subject to change. When the Aggies are on Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium, fans must remain in the stands at all times. When USU is in the Laub Indoor Facility, fans must remain in the opening by the doorway.
Utah State football season ticket renewals and new sales for the 2012 season are available at 2011's prices until May 1. Renewals are available online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on the "buy/renew tickets" under the "tickets" drop-down menu. Fans interested in new sales should contact the USU ticket office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on the USU football blog at usufootball.wordpress.com. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
2012 spring practice dates/times
Tuesday, April 24 — 6:15 to 8 a.m.
Thursday, April 26 — 6:15 to 8 a.m.
Saturday, April 28 — 2 p.m. Spring Game
Other comments from head coach Andersen:
“I would still say consistently we are not stopping the run well enough on defense. Overall offensively, we're just not throwing and catching the ball consistently enough. There's not a lot of drops, but it's sometimes protections or the snaps, or just not getting open. We've got to throw and catch better and stop the run better. But there's a lot of good things on that tape.
"I'm excited about the young kids. Communication was better in the second group on both offense and defense. We had a great learning situation in the two-minute with the penalty. One timeout left, let the clock run down to 10 seconds, and had to make a hard field goal. We had a holding penalty in the two-minute situation where we got the ball on the chip-shot field goal. That's why we put ourselves in those positions.
"This week, the goal was to work on technique and then understand the strategies that go into situations. We will continue to harp on that with the young crew. You have to execute in critical times."
On Kyler Fackrell:
"We were right on the edge with him many times last year. He did a great job in the off-season, getting stronger and bigger. This week, his mind has cleared. The waters have settled a little bit and he can play a little bit faster in the defensive scheme than he has. He's a very talented young man. He's playing the field side linebacker, but he can play the bench, which is where Bojay Filimoeatu plays when he's healthy. We'll move him there when he's back and we'll move Fackrell over to the ‘F’ linebacker. That's going to be a spot that's going to be highly contested in the fall because Terrell Thompson will be back and full steam."
On next week’s schedule:
"One day we'll be in helmets and shoulder pads, then another day in just helmets. We'll do a little bit of game prep, then come out on Saturday. The game will be similar to this. We don't have the numbers to break off in offense/defense on each side of the ball."
On Friday’s crowd:
"Thanks for everybody coming out. It's great for the kids, brings a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement to see people out here supporting them. It was a great evening. It's a special time. It means a lot to them to have this kind of support, especially in the middle of spring."
Comments from redshirt freshman linebacker Kyler Fackrell:
On Friday’s scrimmage:
"We've wanted to come out with more energy these last couple scrimmages, the outside linebackers in particular. We're young and haven't been making as many plays as they want us to make. We tried to come out with a lot of energy, fly around, and I feel like we did a lot better today than we have."
On the defense’s progress this spring:
"You can see it today. They got three touchdowns, but overall we were stuffing the run, and we were struggling with that at the beginning. We're coming together as a unit a lot better. Just in running to the ball and effort, and in technique and communication — that's what they've been emphasizing a lot — we've gotten a lot better. Today I did better. I started off good and tailed off in the middle, but today I did good and plan on doing well in the Spring Game."
On redshirting last year:
"I wanted to play in the beginning, and Coach Andersen came to me and said he thought he was going to redshirt me. I told him I'd trust whatever he decided, but that I'd rather play. They decided to redshirt me and that's fine. I got a lot of experience and I got to know the defense a lot better. It's basically the same this year. There are a few things that are called different, but overall it's pretty similar."
Comments from redshirt senior tight end Kellen Bartlett:
Thoughts on the tight ends:
"We have D.J. (Tialavea), myself, Keegan (Andersen), Brad Theurer and Travis Swann rolling the tight end room. Coaches like what we can do. We offer a lot of disadvantages and mismatches against the defenses. We've got the size and advantages. We're just going to go out there and bring our A-game.
"You've seen a lot of schools like Stanford and Wisconsin that really emphasize tight end play. I'm not going to say that's what we're going to go to, but it's nice to have that option. It's nice to have two tight ends you can put on the field and let them split out. It throws a lot of curveballs at the defense.
"When I first came here, we were running quads, four wide receivers, you see that a lot in college ball. But when you go to the next level, it's almost as if the tight ends never leave the field. When you provide that, we can run plays in two minutes, which you can't usually do out of quads. It's nice to have the option.
"Usually tight ends are better blockers than receivers. That's a huge thing for us. It would be nice if we can get two tight ends out there on the hurry-up. That's unique and offers an advantage. We're just trying to find the best way to get the best players on the field, always. You want reliable players. Guys you can count on day in and day out. That's something I'm working on every single day, trying to get better and improve — play faster and be more reliable."
On being back after last year’s injury:
"It hurt missing last year, big time. There's a reason for everything. I'm going to go out there and do it. Let's make history. Why not win a WAC championship, why not win the bowl game this time. I missed out with Bobby (Wagner) and Robert (Turbin) and Quinn (Garner) and all my guys that I was supposed to be gone with. I missed out with them and it hurt me.
"Every day I still wear the bowl band around my wrist as a reminder to get back to where we were. I want it. I want to go bowling, but to win it. I think our main focus though is the WAC and our first game. It's great to talk about all we want to do and what we're trying to do, what our goals are. But our main focus is when we take that field against Southern Utah. Are we going to be ready to start fast and finish the game strong?
"If we can find a team that can be that consistent and reliable, start fast, play strong all four quarters, we'll be very dangerous. The sky's the limit for us, no doubt."
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.