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Utah State football: Aggies' defense shows up big in spring game

Published April 20, 2013 6:37 pm

Utah State football • Only touchdown drive of the day is 3 yards, as offense struggles.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan •Â The summer ahead is a long one. The pads won't come out again for a while.

But in the coming months, as he's pushing weights or running through conditioning, cornerback Tay Glover-Wright will have a few fond memories from the spring to reflect on — especially his diving acrobatic interception off a tipped pass in the Blue and White scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.

He knows it doesn't clinch the starting spot he hopes to have next fall, but it sure helps him stake a claim.

"I'm a senior, and I know that just because I'm a senior doesn't mean I just get my position," Glover-Wright said. "I have to work for my position, just like everybody else."

The Aggies' annual spring exhibition swung strongly in the defense's favor Saturday, giving credence to the belief that the unit's returning players could have another strong season in the making this fall. The scrimmage rules allowed the defense to score on key plays — such as sacks, interceptions and stops — and the defense, playing in white, outscored the offense 59-39 in the format, allowing only one touchdown.

Coach Matt Wells was struck by conflicting feelings, at once looking for more from his offense, but also having pride in the defensive playmaking.

"It shows we're around the ball," he said. "On the flipside, on the offense, we've got to get hands down and some of the timings right from the quarterback perspective. But you know what? That's ball."

It was a strong statement by the defense, bringing back eight starters from last season. But part of the unit's strength lies in its depth and the players who are trying to claim their own roles.

Among the standouts was Glover-Wright, who finished with six tackles. Freshman Nick Vigil also was a big contributor, earning two "sacks" — quarterbacks were exempt from contact — and memorably recovering a fumble that he nearly returned for a touchdown.

Still, Vigil is not resting his case on his exhibition performance. He's hoping he'll get more chances to show he belongs in the linebacker rotation with Jake Doughty and his older brother Zach.

"We'll have to see how summer ball goes," he said. "I haven't proved anything yet. I haven't really been on the field."

Saturday brought some struggles for quarterback Chuckie Keeton and his offensive line. The Aggies attempted rotating in a number of less experienced linemen, which helped the defensive front score five sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

Keeton was only 15 for 29 with a touchdown and an interception on the day, and backup Craig Harrison was 13 for 28 with a pick. But even though the only touchdown drive of the day was 3 yards long, it was capped by a spectacular stretching catch by Travis Van Leeuwen, who was Keeton's main target Saturday.

"I feel like I've done a lot all spring," said Van Leeuwen, who finished with five catches for 33 yards. "I've caught the ball more consistently than I did today. But I got a lot to work on to get where I want to be and to help this team accomplish its goals."

Running back Joey DeMartino stood out, finishing with 100 yards on 16 carries in an otherwise stagnant day in running the ball. Receiver Brandon Swindall had four catches for 43 yards.

On defense, La'Bradford Harold picked off a deflected pass by Harrison as well. The only other scoring play the defense allowed was a 32-yard field goal by Nick Diaz.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Highlights

O The defense beats the offense 59-39 with five sacks and seven tackles for loss.

• Quarterback Chuckie Keeton is just 15 for 29 with an interception and the game's only touchdown.