Utah State held its second scrimmage of fall camp Saturday evening on Merlin Olsen Field inside Romney Stadium as part of Aggie Football Family Fun Day. In all, second-year head coach Matt Wells ran his team through roughly 100 plays, which included special teams, red zone and two-minute situations in front of an estimated 9,000 fans.
“First of all, it was a great crowd,” Wells said. “That was the first thing I looked up and saw when we came out. It’s tremendous support from our fans, especially the ones here in Cache Valley. They really turned out.”
Aggie Football Family Fun Day started at 1 p.m., with youth football games, and there were activities on the concourse, along with games for fans of all ages. After the scrimmage, fans were allowed on the field to meet and get autographs from USU football players and coaches, as well as participate in games and activities.
Once the scrimmage started, Utah State’s No. 1 offense drove right down the field on the No. 2 defense and capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton to junior wide receiver JoJo Natson. After that, however, the Aggie defense held USU’s offense without any points for the next six drives before Keeton connected from 27 yards out with junior wide receiver Hunter Sharp to cap an 8-play, 65-yard drive. Following its second scoring drive of the night, USU’s defense did not allow any points during the next five drives.
Utah State’s offense then scored on four straight possessions in the red zone as it converted a pair of field goals from 31 and 35 yards by senior placekicker Nick Diaz and sophomore placekicker Jake Thompson, respectively, followed by an 8-yard touchdown run from redshirt junior running back Rashad Hall and a 2-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Darell Garretson to senior tight end Jefferson Court. The scrimmage concluded with a pair of two-minute drills that did not result in any points.
“There are two or three things that stand out to me. First of all, I thought Chuckie (Keeton) was really sharp," Wells said. "There were some things we did on offense that weren’t so sharp, some center snaps getting away from us, but we’ll get that cleaned up. There were some plays made in the secondary that jumped out to me. Jalen Davis, a freshman, keeps making some good plays. I thought it was a good, productive night. There was nothing tremendously alarming as far as penalties and those kinds of things. I’m really proud of the No. 1 defense, they had a really strong performance tonight."
In all, Utah State scored four touchdowns and added two field goals during the scrimmage as Keeton was 14-of-30 passing for 135 yards with two touchdowns, while rushing for another 29 yards on five carries. Utah State’s offense gained 347 yards of total offense (251-passing, 96-rushing).
“For the second scrimmage it was still pretty good for the offense. The defense stepped up a little bit, especially the No. 1 defense. Overall it was a good day," Wells said. "We still have a lot of work to do, in my opinion, but I see a lot of potential in this team. We’re making strides to being a great team and this was one of those first big steps, being able to perform in front of a crowd.”
Senior running back Joe Hill also performed well for the second time in as many scrimmages as he carried the ball four times for 59 yards, including a run of 45 yards on his first carry of the night.
Other offensive standouts included senior wide receiver Shaan Johnson who had four receptions for 32 yards, while Natson finished with five receptions for 28 yards and one touchdown. Garretson finished the night completing 12-of-25 passes for 76 yards with one touchdown.
Defensively, sophomore cornerback Jentz Painter had a team-best six tackles, while freshman cornerback Jalen Davis had a team-high three pass breakups to go along with three tackles.
“On defense, I thought we played a lot better,” senior safety Brian Suite said. “We were a lot more aggressive and made plays that we needed to make. I’m just really happy all around.”
In all, the Aggie defense recorded four sacks, 10 tackles for loss and nine pass break-ups during the scrimmage to go along with a 38-yard fumble return by junior linebacker Anthony Williams.
Utah State concludes its final week of fall camp with two practices on the USU practice field Monday and Thursday, to go along with single practices Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, which is the last day of camp. USU’s final scrimmage of fall camp will be held Tuesday night inside Romney Stadium at 6 p.m. All practices during fall camp, which concludes Saturday, Aug. 23, are open to the public.
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Utah State opens the 2014 season on Sunday, Aug. 31, at Tennessee and plays its first home game the following weekend against Idaho State on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. USU's first Mountain West game will be at home against Air Force on Saturday, Oct. 11, and the Aggies conclude the regular season at MW foe Boise State on Saturday, Nov. 29. The Mountain West Championship game will be held Saturday, Dec. 6, at the home stadium of the divisional champion with the highest College Football Playoff Committee ranking.
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.