LOGAN, Utah –Week two of spring ball is officially in the books following Utah State’s first scrimmage Saturday afternoon on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium.
First-year head coach Blake Anderson, who is in his eighth year overall as a collegiate head coach, ran his team through roughly 120 plays on Saturday. Not only was he pleased with the weather and fans in attendance, but he was also pleased with the way his team performed.
“Really pleased with the day, it was a beautiful day, and I was pleased that we had really good energy,” Anderson said. “The guys are getting a good grasp of how hard we want to play. We are not there yet, but we have a good foundation. We don’t quite understand how to play fast yet on offense, but we will get there, and it is getting better daily. I loved the fact that the defense created some turnovers after giving up some big plays early. They showed some resiliency and finished better than they started.”
Overall, Utah State’s offense gained 795 yards during the scrimmage (412 rushing, 383 passing) and scored three touchdowns, while the Aggie defense forced four turnovers with three interceptions and one fumble, returning two of them for scores. USU’s defense also had 5.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss, to go along with four pass breakups on the day.
Utah State’s offense had numerous other drives that were stopped inside the red zone as those packages have not been installed yet.
Sophomore quarterback Cooper Legas led Utah State on a pair of scoring drives Saturday, both to senior wide receiver Derek Wright. The first touchdown was on a 33-yard pass to finish off a seven-play, 70-yard drive, while the second was on a 27-yard pass to complete a five-play, 70-yard drive. Junior running back Pailate Makakona scored the third touchdown for the offense on a 7-yard run to cap an 11-play, 70-yard drive.
Utah State’s two scores on defense came via a 59-yard fumble return by senior cornerback Xavion Steele and a 36-yard interception return by senior outside linebacker Cash Gilliam. Steele also added an interception during the scrimmage, as did junior cornerback Jaden Smith.
“I thought we played pretty good today on defense,” said Gilliam. “Our main goal was to have effort, be tough, and have juice. I feel like we could have started with a lot more juice and enthusiasm and that would have cut back on the mistakes and limited the big plays we gave up early.”
Overall, Legas was 16-of-20 passing for 182 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while junior quarterback Andrew Peasley was 12-of-29 for 174 yards with one interception. In all, USU’s four quarterbacks completed 32-of-56 passes for 383 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Senior wide receiver Deven Thompkins was one of 10 Aggies to catch a pass during the scrimmage, as he finished with seven receptions for 129 yards, while Wright had three catches for 82 yards, including his two touchdowns. Sophomore wide receivers Quinton Hadnot and Kyle Van Leeuwen both had five catches on the day for 38 and 37 yards, respectively.
“There is still a lot to clean up, but I thought the offense performed really well today,” said Thompkins. “We made a lot of big plays today, but we could have played a lot faster that we did.”
Sophomore running back Elelyon Noa gained 112 yards on seven carries, while fellow sophomore John Gentry carried the ball 11 times for 63 yards. Senior Devonta’e Henry-Cole gained 57 yards on eight carries and junior transfer Calvin Tyler Jr. carried the ball five times for 50 yards. In all, 12 Aggies carried the ball at least one time.
Defensively, Gilliam finished the scrimmage with five tackles, which included 1.0 sacks and 2.0 tackles for loss, to go along with a pair of pass breakups and his interception return for a touchdown. Junior defensive end Byron Hobbs-Vaughns, a transfer from Texas, had a team-high 3.0 tackles for loss, which included 2.0 sacks, to go along with a blocked field goal. And, junior defensive tackle Hale Motu’apuaka also had 2.0 sacks. Sophomore safety Luke Marion led all players with 10 tackles, to go along with a forced fumble, while junior safety Ajani Carter added eight stops.
“All in all, we are having a lot of fun. The group is battling hard for us and I think they have bought into what we are trying to teach. I told them at the end today that I love coming to work every day. They are a fun group to coach, and they want to do what we want them to do, we just need more reps and more opportunities, and that is what the second half of spring is going to be for,” added Anderson.
Season ticket renewals are currently being accepted. To renew, fans should visit www.utahstateaggies.com, or do so in person or by phone through the USU Ticket Office during regular business hours (435-797-0305). New season ticket orders can also be made.
Utah State opens the 2021 season at Washington State on Saturday, Sept. 4.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
2021 Utah State Football Spring Practice Dates
Tuesday, March 30 – 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Thursday, April 1 – 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Monday, April 5 – 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Wednesday, April 7 – 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Friday, April 9 – 9:15 – 11:15 a.m.
Tuesday, April 13 – 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Thursday, April 15 – 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 – 2 p.m. – Blue vs. White Spring Game
Monday, April 19 – 4:15 – 6:15 p.m.
Note – Dates and times subject to change.