Second USU scrimmage sees improvement on both sides of the ball

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State football concluded its second scrimmage of fall camp on Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium Wednesday afternoon with positive plays on both sides of the ball as first year head coach Matt Wells ran his team through roughly 80 snaps.

In all, Utah State’s offense had four scoring drives, which consisted of three touchdowns and one field goal, while the Aggie defense recorded seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss to go along with a blocked field goal.

Junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton led Utah State’s offense as he completed 12-of-20 passes for 172 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, while sophomore wide receiver Bruce Natson caught four passes for 47 yards and one touchdown.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Kyler Fackrell had four tackles for loss, which included three sacks, and redshirt freshman linebacker Nick Vigil had two tackles for loss, including one sack.

Offensively, Utah State scored a touchdown on its initial drive of the scrimmage as it went 75 yards in six plays culminating with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Keeton to senior tight end D.J. Tialavea. Three series later, USU drove 61 yards in 10 plays before settling for a 21-yard field goal from junior placekicker Nick Diaz.

USU’s final two scores of the scrimmage both came in red zone scenarios as Keeton hit senior wide receiver Travis Reynolds on a 25-yard scoring strike on the first play of that series, followed by a 12-yard pass from Keeton to Natson on the second play of a drive that begin at the defense’s 12-yardline.

Other defensive standouts Wednesday include a blocked field goal by senior defensive end Paul Piukala, while junior cornerbacks Marwin Evans, Jeremy Morris and Rashard Stewart each posted three tackles, as did redshirt freshman cornerback Marquan Ellison, junior linebacker Brayden Stembridge and Vigil.

Utah State, which is in its second week of fall camp, will practice Thursday from 2:40 to 4:40 p.m., on the USU practice fields before another two-a-day practice Friday. Utah State will conclude its second week of fall camp with a situational scrimmage as part of Aggie Football Family Fun Day, sponsored by Macey’s, on Saturday, Aug. 17 beginning at 6 p.m.

All practices during fall camp, which concludes on Saturday, Aug. 24, are open to the public.

Utah State, who is entering its first season in the Mountain West after spending the past eight years in the WAC, will open the 2013 season on Thursday, Aug. 29 at Utah and play its first Mountain West game the following weekend at Air Force on Saturday, Sept. 7. USU’s first home game of the 2013 campaign will be on Saturday, Sept. 14 against Weber State, while its first home Mountain West game will be on Saturday, Oct. 12 against Boise State.

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at or on facebook at Utah State University Athletics.

Utah State Football Practice Dates, Times and Location

Thur., Aug. 15 — 2:40 – 4:40 p.m. (Practice Field)

Fri., Aug. 16 — 9:15 – 11:15 a.m./4:55 – 6:25 p.m. (Practice Field)

FOOTBALL FAMILY FUN DAY, sponsored by Macy’s

Sat., Aug. 17 — 6:00 p.m. (Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium) — Scrimmage #3

Mon., Aug. 19 — 9:15 – 11:15 a.m./3:55 – 5:25 p.m. (Practice Field)

Tues., Aug. 20 — 2:40 – 4:40 p.m. (Practice Field)

Wed., Aug. 21 — 2:40 – 4:40 p.m. (Practice Field)

Thur., Aug. 22 — 9:15 – 11:15 a.m. / 3:55 – 5:25 pm (Practice Field)

Fri., Aug. 23 — 2:40 – 4:40 p.m. (Practice Field)

Sat., Aug. 24 — 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. (Romney Stadium)

End of Camp

NOTE: All dates, times and locations subject to change.

Utah State Football Scrimmage Quotes

<strong>Head Coach Matt Wells</strong>

On the highlights of the scrimmage…

“I think there were several highlights. A major positive is the explosive plays by the offense. That’s what we’re used to around here. That’ll be the standard and that’ll be the expectation every Saturday.”

“I thought both defenses at the end of the two-minute drill, especially the two defense there at the end of a long two-minute drill, studded it up against the one offense and that was good to see. Of course, the one defense just completely shut down the two offense in their two-minute drill.”

On field goal kicking…

“I’ve liked the field goal kicking all during camp. We missed a couple of chip shots at the end and we can’t do that. It can’t ever happen, and I just want to stress the importance to them that we’re going to have a game come down to a field goal to win it — or two games — and then we’re going to have to block one. We’ve done that the last couple of years, block one, and make big plays in a game the last two seasons. Those, to me, are the immediate highlights.”

On too many penalties…

“Yeah, there were some administrative penalties. To be honest with you, they were guys that aren’t ready to play on Saturday yet. I take into consideration who they are too. We’ll go back up and re-evaluate it. One (penalty) is too many, but we want to be aggressive. The ones that I have a problem with are administrative penalties, pre-snap penalties. That’s where we’ve got to cut down, but some of that was with the young guys.”

On if playmaking questions entering fall camp have been answered at this point…

“I’ve been telling everybody for the last five or six practices that I’m happy with the playmakers. They’ve been doing it in practice and you guys just saw it. I’m not from Missouri, but it’s ‘show me’. I’m from Oklahoma, but that’s close enough, right? They’re going to need to do it on game day, but that’s a direct reflection of how they’ve practiced a little bit the last week or so.”

On the corners…

“We’re trying to get the right fit and see those guys make plays in live situations. Jeremy Morris has really stepped up, Rashard (Stewart) and Tay (Glover-Wright), those are the guys that stand out, of course with Nevin (Lawson). We’ve moved Marwin (Evans) to safety now, so he’s doing a nice job battling with Cameron (Sanders) and Frankie (Sutera). It gives us more depth in some of the defensive stud packages.”

On if Jaron Bentrude is the punter…

“If we started today, Jaron would be the punter. He’s done well.”

On the scrimmage Saturday…

“It will be a lot of the same — drive-its and some situational stuff. Again, probably not as many reps even as tonight, so we’ll kind of cut back just a little bit on that in the total number of snaps, but we’ll do a lot of situational stuff and drive-it stuff. We’ll continue to look at more young kids.”

On the younger quarterbacks…

“Craig (Harrison) looked more comfortable tonight because he’s practiced a little bit better the last couple of days, and he should. He took all the reps with the twos last year in practice, meetings and even in some games. Darell (Garretson) has showed flashes over the last week of why we recruited him. Jeff (Manning) has had some good flashes at times. And Jordan (Brown) came in and threw a couple of good balls. The issue with quarterback is it’s got to be day after day after day, and you’ve got to string so many performances together to stay consistence for your teammates’ confidence, for your confidence and ultimately, our confidence.”

On Hayden Weichers…

“Hayden made a couple of nice plays tonight and he’s shown flashes. He’s got the skill set that shows why we recruited him. We’ve been happy with Hayden’s progress.”

<strong>Junior Cornerback Rashard Stewart</strong>

It seems like they are asking you to rush the passer more. How does it feel to get back there and get a sack?

“It’s kind of fun getting to chase Chuckie Keeton around, you know he’s kind of like a rabbit. I like to watch a lot of the defensive linemen’s one-on-ones just to try and get their technique so when I go in there and rush I can just steal that technique.”

What do you think you’ve improved on in camp?

“I would like to say my consistency. I came into this camp really determined, telling myself I’m going to play. I stopped doing some of the things that I used to do, some of the extra activities such as rap. I just let that go and focused on football.”

Do you see this as kind of a battle with Tay (Glover-Wright) for that starting spot?

“Oh, definitely. Me and Tay are like brothers so we learn off each other, but the thing I really like is the defensive backs group. We all are in competition, so it’s not only Tay, it’s Jeremy Morris and Quinton Byrd. All these guys just make me play harder, so great competition.”

You guys play a lot of combinations where you play three or four cornerbacks anyway so there could be some times where you all play at the same time…

“Yes sir. The combination, as far as packages, the coaches want to see how it looks with me, Nevin (Lawson) and (Quinton) Byrd or me, (Jeremy) Morris and Tay because you never know what can happen during the season. The football season is crazy so we switch the packages up so we can be ready for whatever and whoever is in there at any time.”

It seemed like the first team offense was really explosive today. What do you feel like you guys did to adjust?

“For me, everybody has their assignment and when you do your assignment to the tee, and when I say to the tee I mean correct, plays like that won’t happen. Running with the twos and the ones is different. With the ones, their assignments is excellent and their ready to play ball. With the twos, they’re a bit shaky, but we’ll watch film and fix it up.”

<strong>Junior Linebacker Tavaris McMillian</strong>

How was it today defensively?

“I would say it was decent. I’m not really satisfied with how we played today flying around. We expect to be a top-of-the-line defense, every play and every down. We let up on a couple of plays, especially in the red zone where they had some explosives. We’d like to eliminate that, than it would be a solid day.”

What do you see as far as you defining your role? What are you trying to show the coaches this year?

“I’m just trying to show the coaches I’m versatile. I’m going to fit in wherever I’m needed. We got so much depth at linebacker, so wherever I’m needed I’ll play, doesn’t matter to me.”

Is that depth a real asset for you guys, being able to rotate in and not lose much?

“It’s definitely valuable, especially when we play against pace teams. Guys can rotate in and out so it definitely plays into our hands.”

<strong>Sophomore Wide Receiver Bruce Natson</strong>

It seemed like you guys came out with a lot of confidence today. What went into that early start where you guys were really explosive?

“As an offense, coach told us earlier we had to have a big day and I guess everybody really took that to heart, we were really tough.”

Are you going to be a punt returner too?

“Yeah, I’m getting very confident as a punt returner. I feel like I can change the game at any moment as a punt returner.”

How did you feel about the cleanness of the offensive execution today? It seemed like early on you guys were pretty smooth.

“That’s been one of our biggest things this camp is executing and each day we’ve been working on it as a offense, and it’s been paying off in practice and when we come out here and scrimmage, we’re just executing like coach tells us to and how we want to.”

Coming into this camp everybody was saying that the only thing they wanted to see was wide receiver. How do you think that group has come together?

“Me personally, I feel like we’re improving. I know we have a lot of people not believing in us, but as a receiving group I think we’re going to be a really strong group.”

You’re just a sophomore, but do you already feel like you need to be a little bit more of a veteran?

“Yeah, I know I’m a sophomore but coach expects big things out of me and I know the expectations of me out of coach are high so I feel like I need to live up to those expectations.”


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