Logan • It wasn’t much of a surprise: Utah State’s starters were better than Weber State’s starters. A 49-0 halftime lead hammered home that fact, if there was any doubt to start with.
But coach Matt Wells said the pleasant surprise was seeing how well his depth fared against the Wildcats. The second-string players got a lot of snaps, and they weren’t idling away the minutes.
Three scoring drives in the third quarter, accompanied by a defense that didn’t allow any points, left the Aggies feeling good about where they stand with their depth. Even the starters were applauding their teammates.
“I think they answered the call,” linebacker Kyler Fackrell said. “They played harder. We expect there not to be much of a drop-off to the twos.”
There wasn’t — on either side of the ball.
Quarterback Craig Harrison led a pair of touchdown drives in the first five minutes, drives that were highlighted by explosive plays. Joey DeMartino, a senior running back whose career was interrupted by injury, sprinted through a wide-open hole for a 60-yard touchdown. Harrison threw his first touchdown on the next drive, a 56-yard pass to Keegan Andersen.
A fumbled kickoff return by Weber State led to a 2-yard touchdown run for Robert Marshall to wrap up the scoring for Utah State.
Wells said he was pleased with the skill depth, but even more so that he got a whole half of game action for the reserve blockers. Cultivating depth on the offensive line will be key for a program expected to graduate four starters after this season.
“The biggest key was to get those five guys up front,” Wells said. “We were able to get them some playing experience because I understand what’s coming up next year.”
Planning for the future also is important on defense: The Aggies have seniors playing most of the backfield spots, and the linebacking corps and defensive ends will be hurt by graduations in 2014.
Although the second-team defense allowed more yards in the second half, it didn’t allow a score. Players such as Nick Vigil, Ricky Ali’ifua and Keylon Hollis made key tackles to stuff Weber State in critical moments. The coverage had a few breakdowns exposed, but more often than not it left quarterback Austin Chipoletti frustrated, especially on third down.
Wells said the effort was a dramatic improvement from the second-team unit’s showing at Air Force, during which it surrendered a touchdown. Losing the shutout after the offense fumbled stung a bit because the defense played so well.
“From a defensive perspective, shutouts are hard to come by — really hard to come by,” Wells said. “It was a tremendous effort by the two defense most of the night.”
Utah State at USC
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m.