LOGAN — If broad conclusions can be drawn from a spring scrimmage, then last year’s record-setting Utah State defense is going to be even better in 2013.
USU's defense shined on an overcast and rainy day to give the White team a 59-39 modified scoring victory in Saturday’s annual Blue and White scrimmage. Linebacker Nick Vigil led the way with two sacks and a fumble recovery that he returned to the 3 yard-line.
“I thought I played all right. There were a few things I could have done better,” Vigil said. “I wasn’t getting off blocks as well as I wished I would have. Some opportunities presented themselves and I made a few plays. I had an all right day.”
Vigil’s potential defensive score was stopped by a tackle from quarterback Craig Harrison, which is something the linebacker's defensive teammates won’t soon let him forget.
“I’ll hear about that for a while — getting tackled by the quarterback. Not my best moment,” Vigil added. “At least we got the ball, I guess.”
Along with the fumble recovery, the defense added two interceptions, five sacks and seven pass breakups, stopping the offense dead in its tracks after the first few series.
“I thought the D-line did a really nice job,” head coach Matt Wells said. “We had a hard time running the ball today. I think we are pretty good up front. We will see how good come the end of August and September.”
Offensively, the Aggies finished with 40 carries for 142 yards, with Joey DeMartino leading the way with an even 100 yards on 16 totes. Starting running back Joe Hill finished with eight carries for 28 yards.
Through the air, Chuckie Keeton finished 15 of 29 for 103 yards while Harrison had an identical 103 yards on 13-of-28 passing. No matter who was under center, the quarterback spent as much time running from pressure as they did looking for an open man.
“That’s a prime example of O-lineman being shuffled in and out — not to make that an excuse, because there was pressure,” Wells said. “When you start putting in kids that haven’t been right next to each other it’s a communication error. That still falls on us. We have to communicate and slide better.”
The offense scored on a 32-yard field goal from Nick Diaz early in the scrimmage and a 2-yard toss from Keeton to Travis Van Leeuwen following the Vigil fumble recovery. Van Leeuwen finished as the Aggies' most-targeted wide receiver, collecting five catches for 33 yards.
“I love anytime the ball comes my way,” Van Leeuwen said. “I like to make a play and try and help my team. I had a few that I should have had, but you just got to come back next time and try and make a play.”
Saturday's scrimmage concludes spring practices for Utah State. The team will hold workouts individually, as well as focus on weight training during the summer to get ready for the start of fall camp on Friday, August 2 and the team’s first season in the Mountain West Conference.
“We have to be exceptional on offense and exceptional on defense. Just average won’t cut it around here,” Wells said. “That’s where our leadership with Chuckie and the O-line and the front seven comes in during the summer. Summer is a big part for a lot of programs. There is still a lot of work to do.”
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.