“The first thing I told these guys is that I was really pleased with the way the offense came out fast and efficient,” said Wells. “Chuckie (Keeton) was really accurate and got off to a fast start. I’m proud of how the No. 1 defense played in the red zone. They gave up some stuff in the middle of the field, so good job by the No. 2 offense. That is not like our defense, but I’m not worried about it one bit. We held some guys out with some training camp tweaks, but I’m not worried about them.
“We’ve got some work to do in the secondary, we know that. We’re playing new guys at new positions, even in the last couple of days. That’s something we can get cleaned up. I thought it was pretty clean from an offensive standpoint. There weren’t very many balls on the ground,” added Wells.
I thought this scrimmage showed a lot about the depth chart and some position battles. Austin Stephens has shown he is the starting Center. He played well in the scrimmage and showed to me why he is getting the reps with the first team offense. The Linebacker depth chart is coming together. What is really interesting is that guys like Nick Vigil can play multiple positions. L.T. Filiaga can step in and play well as well.
Offensively, Utah State scored six touchdowns and added two field goals during the scrimmage as senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton was 16-of-22 passing for 180 yards with two touchdowns, while rushing for another 32 yards on seven carries with one touchdown in his first live action since suffering a season-ending knee injury against BYU on Oct. 4, 2013.
“The first scrimmage of fall camp went pretty well for the offensive side of the ball,” said Keeton. “The first team defense did well, but I know they’re going to continue to push through to make it even better. From an offensive standpoint, tonight was much better than our first day of full pads. We’re looking forward to improving and having a little bit more success in the upcoming scrimmage on Saturday.”
Keeton’s first touchdown pass of the scrimmage was from 6-yards to junior wide receiver Brandon Swindall as the No. 1 offense went 75 yards in 11 plays against the No. 2 defense on the opening series. Keeton then scored on a 2-yard run during its next series to cap a 13-play, 65-yard drive. His final touchdown pass of the evening was from 40-yards to junior wide receiver Hunter Sharp to cap a 4-play, 50-yard drive.
Senior running back Joe Hill also performed well in his first live action since suffering a season-ending knee injury at San Jose State on Sept. 27, 2013. Overall, Hill finished the scrimmage with 67 yards on 13 carries, which included a 1-yard touchdown run. Hill also caught two passes for 24 yards.
“My knee is strong and I’m just getting my confidence back,” Hill said. “I didn’t even think about it today, I was just making my reads and my cuts.”
Other offensive standouts included Sharp who caught five passes for 90 yards with one touchdown, while junior wide receiver JoJo Natson had four catches for 36 yards and carried the ball two times for 19 yards, which including a 12-yard touchdown run. Fellow junior wide receiver Brandon Swindall also caught five passes for 29 yards, including one touchdown, while freshman wide receiver Zach Van Leeuwen had four receptions for 30 yards. Sophomore quarterback Darell Garretson also played well as he was 14-of-25 passing for 122 yards, which included an 11-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Hayden Weichers.
In all, Utah State’s offense gained 491 yards of total offense (378-passing, 113-rushing).
Defensively, junior cornerback Deshane Hines had a team-high eight tackles and sophomore cornerback Devin Centers added seven stops. Sophomore defensive end Eric Berntson led the team with three sacks, while junior linebacker LT Filiaga had two tackles for loss as part of his three total tackles. Junior defensive end Jordan Nielsen added two tackles and recovered a fumble in the end zone.
“The defense got off to a slow start and the offense got out pretty quick,” said senior linebacker Zach Vigil. “It was pretty frustrating, honestly. I’d like to see the defense come out a little bit quicker than that. It’s frustrating as a linebacker when they keep throwing to the outside. That’s part of the game, we know we’re tough inside and the offense knows that also. We just have to rally and recover a little quicker so our pressures can get going.”