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Defense dominates in spring game

sports senior writer

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 14:04

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JUNIOR QUARTERBACK CHUCKIE KEETON sprints downfield during the annual Blue vs. White spring game. Keeton threw for 103 yards, but defense stole the spotlight. DELAYNE LOCKE photo

 

Defense looks to be a strong point for the Utah State football team if what happened in Saturday’s Blue vs. White Spring Game holds true for the 2013 season.

The White defense defeated the Blue offense 59-39 using a creative scoring system that allowed the defense to put points on the board. Only one touchdown was scored, while two interceptions and a fumble recovery that was nearly run back for a touchdown proved the biggest turning points.

“It was a great game on both sides of the ball,” senior running back Joey DeMartino said. “Both sides came out ready to play.”

DeMartino was the game’s biggest offensive star, carrying the ball 16 times for 100 yards. Senior wide receiver Travis Van Leeuwen caught the game’s lone touchdown on a fade pass from junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton.

“When I saw the ball in the air, I got excited, so I just tried to get good position and make a play on it,” Van Leeuwen said. “It was a great ball by Chuckie. I just kind of made a back-shoulder catch and kept my feet in.”

After redshirting last year, freshman linebacker Nick Vigil quickly made his presence felt. Vigil brought pressure multiple times and nearly took a fumble recovery to the house before being caught by quarterback Craig Harrison at the 3-yard line.

“I’ll probably be hearing that for a while, getting tackled by the quarterback,” Vigil said. “It’s not my best moment, but at least we got the ball I guess.”

Nick combined with his brother, Zach Vigil, and the rest of the defensive front to provide steady pressure all game long.

“I thought the D-line did a really nice job,” head coach Matt Wells said. “Those front seven on defense, I keep saying this, give us a tough time in running the ball. We’re pretty good up front.”

DeMartino said the pressure made it hard for the offense to get anything going.

“They were getting penetration at the right time and the right down,” he said. “They were getting us off the field, which is what they’re supposed to do.”

Senior cornerback Tay Glover-Wright also recorded an interception for the White team.

“The number one goal was for the defense to get the offense off the field,” Glover-Wright said. “The first touchdown was on me, so I felt like I had to redeem myself.”

Glover-Wright is switching over to defense full-time after playing quarterback for part of his career, and said the transition is easier now that he’s focusing on only one side.

“It’s easier because I don’t have to focus on the offense as well as what’s going on with the defense,” he said. “Sometimes they think I’m cheating because I’ve been on offense and know some of their signs, but it’s never like that.”

Wells had asked last week for his secondary to create more deflections and turnovers and was pleased to see their response.

“There were some picks and turnovers,” Wells said. “I think that’s good. It shows we’re around the ball. On the flipside, on the offense, we’ve got to get hands down and some of the timings right from the quarterback perspective.”

Keeton went 15-29 for 103 yards, while Harrison went 13-28 for 103 yards as well. Wells said a lot of the offensive struggles came from substitutions on the offensive line.

“That’s a prime example of the O-linemen being shuffled in and out,” he said. “We’ve got to communicate better and slide better. There were a couple of times we were hot, a receiver or quarterback missed it and our defense was aggressive and did a nice job.”

Though only one touchdown and one field goal were scored, the scoring system in place allowed the White team to put points up and win. The defense earned five points for turnovers, three points for a three-and-out, and two points for any stopped drive, sack or tackle for loss. Key differences for the offense included two points for a rush of at least 15 yards, two points for a pass of at least 20 yards, and one point for a first down.

Nearly 3,000 fans were on hand to watch the scrimmage, including multiple Aggie football alumni who were invited on the field after the game to be honored. Players signed autographs after the game to add to the festive atmosphere.

“Today was fun,” Glover-Wright said. “Everyone came out and had fun.”

The Aggies will now break until fall camp, when the new recruits and transfers will be at training camp. Wells said fitting in all the new players will be the next challenge for the coaching staff.

“We have to get them prepared for the summer when we can’t be with them to be able to jump right in with our players for us to be exceptional on both offense and defense,” he said. “Just average won’t cut it around here for any of us. That’s where our leadership of Chuckie, the O-line and the front seven has to show up in the summer.”

 

– m.hop@aggiemail.usu.edu

Twitter:@legendarymhops

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