By Jeff Hunter
For the Deseret News
LOGAN – Due to attending to his studies, Chase Christiansen arrived late at Utah State’s first scrimmage of the spring Friday afternoon. The junior linebacker out of Stansbury High School then ended up bringing the two-hour practice session to a premature ending with a walk-off interception.
The Aggie offense was wrapping up its final drive of the afternoon with a two-minute drill when Christiansen snared a pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Love at the 30-yard line and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown on what would be the last play of the day at Maverik Stadium.
“I saw (Love) kind of peeking that way, so I waited on it and jumped on it late,” said Christiansen, who was tardy due to an engineering course. “I should have (gone) down because it was a two-minute (drill), but I didn’t think about that when I saw a wide-open end zone.
“So, I’ll learn from that and slide next time.”
But as a standout rushing quarterback at Stansbury, Christiansen admitted it was “kind of fun” going back to his high school days.
“Chase made a great catch, and great anticipation too, with reading the quarterback’s eyes,” USU head coach Matt Wells noted.
SPRINGING INTO ACTION: The Aggies, who practiced twice this week after taking last week off for spring break, ran nearly 100 plays during Friday’s scrimmage, and afterward, Wells said he saw good things on both sides of the ball.
“That was a good give and take today; it was not one-sided,” Wells said. “A tremendous job by the No. 1 defense in a red-zone opportunity holding the offense to a field goal and then they missed it. And then, I thought there were some really good drives by the offense.”
On offense, USU scored six touchdowns and kicked two field goals, while the defense racked up four sacks and eight tackles for a loss in addition to Christiansen’s interception return for a touchdown.
Junior quarterback DJ Nelson saw a lot of playing time, completing 12 of 21 passes for 202 yards, including a 60-yard TD strike to Chad Artist, a fellow Logan High School grad. Senior quarterback Kent Myers finished 10 for 17 for 105 yards and two TDs, and Love completed 5 of 10 attempts for 53 yards.
Senior running back Tonny Lindsey Jr. scored twice while rushing for 32 total yards on eight carries, while junior wide receiver Ron’quavion Tarver snared three passes for 69 yards and one touchdown and Jordan Nathan and Zach Leeuwen both finished with four receptions for 48 and 46 yards, respectively.
“I think we have improved during spring ball, especially in the red zone, and this was a good first scrimmage for the offense,” Myers said. “Our main goal this spring is trying to find out what works best for us and I thought we did a good job with that today.”
CATCHING ON QUICK: One reason that Nelson likely saw so many snaps during the scrimmage is that last year’s backup quarterback, Damion Hobbs, is now catching passes rather than throwing them.
Hobbs, a senior after transferring from Oregon in 2014, who saw action in 10 games last year, completed 8 of 19 passes for 68 yards and one interception. But the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder is a physical runner who tied for the team lead in TDs last season with six while rushing for 111 yards on 24 carries.
But in order to get more time on the field, Hobbs has elected to give the tight end position a shot, and he ended up snagging a short pass from Myers on USU’s first drive of the day.
“It’s been a good transformation; three good days for Damion at tight end,” Wells said. “When he wanted to come in and make the change, we did it. He’s a great team guy. He’s a leader, and he just wants to contribute.
“... He’s making a quick transition. He knows the offense, obviously, and so from an assignment standout, he knows what he’s doing. It’s just the technique.”
Sophomore tight end Dax Raymond is being brought along slowly after missing all of last season due to injury, so Wells said Hobbs should get a lot of reps during the spring.