Utah State football: Aggies make most of scrimmage opportunities
Logan • It wasn't a scrimmage for Joey DeMartino it was an opportunity.
Like every Aggie this offseason, the senior running back was eager to show his coaches and teammates what working off 18 pounds this summer has done for him. From hurdling a would-be tackler on a reception to pushing for a first down through a pile of shoving linemen, it was the start of what he hopes, and his team hopes, is another promising fall for the program.
"When we were getting ready, Coach Wells said 'If you want to be all-conference or an All-American, then play like it,'" DeMartino said. " I just tried to put myself in another zone today."
Wells hopes that kind of performance is contagious.
"It's a reflection of how he's practiced and trained all summer," he said. "That's what I tell these guys, that's my story: How you train and how you practice will show up on game day. Today was game day for him and I'm proud of him."
The Aggies are still a few weeks away from the real Saturdays, the ones that count for wins and losses. But the team's first scrimmage of fall camp showcased the work the team has done to follow up its 11-2 performance in 2012.
The offensive line came out punching holes for runners. Chuckie Keeton and Joey DeMartino made the most of the gaps, with DeMartino scoring a pair of touchdowns with 52 yards.
Keeton also found help on the edges in the pass game, with Travis Reynolds and Travis Van Leeuwen not only bringing in catches, but managing to dodge a few tackles afterward. Van Leeuwen in particular emerged as a consistent threat with seven catches for 75 yards.
"It was something that I kind of expected," Keeton said. "But they showed me a little more than I expected to see as well, as far as elusiveness after the catch and starting their run."
In the red zone, however, the defense flexed its experienced muscle. The first-team defense remained mostly taut against the offensive back-ups, with Kyler Fackrell getting two sacks in the opening minutes. Even the second-team unit managed to stop the first-team offense early on in the scrimmage, with newcomer Jeremy Morris nearly picking off a pass in the end zone.
There were some breaks in the defense, most notably with a pair of possessions that began in the red zone and took only one play each to score touchdowns. But Fackrell said the defense is off to a good start in protecting its top-notch reputation from last year.
"We want to carry that on from last year because that red zone defense was really great. We obviously wouldn't like them to be driving down the field on us, but once we get there, ultimately the game is about points. If we can prevent points that's the biggest thing."
The coaching staff limited some veterans' snaps in the interest of keeping players healthy, but it opened opportunities for some reserves to shine. Craig Harrison scored the only passing touchdown of the day, a 12-yard strike to a wide-open Jojo Natson. Freshman running back Kennedy Williams, the younger brother of Aggie alum Kerwynn Williams, scrambled through a pile-up for an 18-yard score.
On defense, Tavaris McMillan, Nick Vigil and Clayton Christensen made plays in the backfield, while Dre Snowden, Myron Turner and Dayton DeLoach were among those with near-picks. La'Bradford Harold nearly took Joe Hill out of his cleats on one hit.
Special teams got a thumbs-up from Wells, with Nick Diaz going 3 for 4 on his kicks, including 2 for 3 on attempts of over 40 yards. His 45-yarder capped a two-minute drill for the first-team offense. Jake Thompson and Josh Thompson also made kicks or more than 40 yards.
After the scrimmage, the players ambushed Wells with a water cooler bath and a song to celebrate his 40th birthday, which he was celebrating on Saturday. They broke the huddle by shouting, "Mountain West Championship."
"I didn't see that coming," he said. "Hopefully that's not the last one around here bath, not birthday."
RB Joey DeMartino (pictured) • 52 yards on 9 carries, catch for 15 yards, 2 TDs
LB Kyler Fackrell • 2 sacks
WR Travis Van Leeuwen • 75 yards on 7 catches