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Utah State football: USU's spring game ends in last-second thriller

By Tavin Stucki

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 12 2014 8:48 p.m. MDT

USU head coach Matt Wells.

Tom Smart, Deseret News archives

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LOGAN — Nick Diaz's first field goal attempt to win Utah State's blue-white spring game was blocked, but a defensive penalty gave the Aggies' kicker a second chance.

From 39 yards out instead of 49, Diaz took advantage of the extra opportunity, drilling the ensuing kick to lift the blue-clad offense to a 78-77 win.

“It’s a great day to be an Aggie,” USU coach Matt Wells said. “Can it get any closer than that? We tried to create some excitement and get down to the end, and to see Nick hit a game-winning field goal, that’s cool. That’s a neat way to end the spring.”

Diaz hit three of USU's five field goals in the scrimmage, and one of sophomore Jake Thompson’s two was from 47 yards out.

Sophomore quarterback Darrel Garretson, who took all the snaps with the first-team offense, connected with receiver Brandon Swindall from 29 yards out for the game's first touchdown.

Garretson finished 11 of 27 for 221 yards and USU’s only two passing touchdowns. Senior QB Craig Harrison finished 13 of 27 with the second-team offense for 145 yards and one interception.

Sophomore cornerback Devin Centers had the day's first turnover, a tip-drill interception in the red zone that he returned to inside the 5-yard line on the other end of the field. Centers finished with four tackles and forced a fumble to go along with the near pick-six.

“I felt like I would have got in, but we can’t hit quarterbacks. I couldn’t just run through the quarterback, I had to cut back,” he said. “But in a game, it’ll be a different story. We’ll be celebrating.”

Wells may not have exactly agreed with him.

“He should have scored,” Wells half-jokingly told reporters after the scrimmage. “Excuses. If he’d have scored, you do the points and they may have won the game.”

Junior running back Rashad Hall had 124 yards rushing on 15 carries, including a 78-yarder that would have scored if Centers hadn't chased him down inside the 5-yard line.

"To be honest, I give it to my offensive line," Hall said. "Anybody could have done what I did. I just saw the hole, I took it, but my offensive line gets all the credit.”

Sophomore running back Kennedy Williams led the team in carries with 19, putting up 95 yards and a touchdown.

Garretson connected with receiver Ronald Butler a couple of plays later for the first score in the second half.

Junior linebacker Jarom Baldomero led the defenses with eight tackles. Two of junior linebacker Kyler Fackrell’s three tackles were sacks.

“I’m ready to play the season right now,” Fackrell said. “I wish we could, but there’s a lot of improvement that we still have to make as a defense.”

Junior La’Bradford Harold had one carry for 6 yards at running back, but switched partway through the scrimmage to linebacker — a position he was playing earlier this spring — after Centers forced him to fumble. Harold had five tackles after the switch.

Freshman wide receiver Nick Markosian, the younger brother of former Aggie lineman Jamie Markosian, had a team-high five catches for 60 yards.

The scrimmage marked the end of spring practices for Utah State. The Aggies will open the 2014 season at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 30. at Tennessee.

“I think our players need a break of us,” Wells said. “I want them to come into training camp fresh. It’s a long year. I mean, we’re going to play 13 this year — that’s regular season — and then we plan on playing two more. So they need to be fresh.”

Utah State spring game scoring system

Offense Touchdown = 6 pts. Conversion = 1 or 2 pts. (ALL LIVE) Field goal = 3 pts. Run of 15+ yards = 2 pts. Pass of 20+ yards = 2 pts. First Down = 1 pt.

Defense Touchdown = 6 pts. Safety = 2 pts. Conversion = 1 or 2 pts. (ALL LIVE) Turnover = 5 pts. 3-and-out = 3 pts. Blocked FG = 3 pts. Stopped drive, Sack, TFL = 2 pts.

Tavin Stucki is a senior journalism student at Utah State University and editor-in-chief of The Utah Statesman, the Aggie campus newspaper. Twitter: @DesNewsAggies @StuckiAggies

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