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Utah State football: Aggies’ spring game is full of competition (VIDEO)

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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Devin Centers (37) runs for a huge gain, during the final Utah State spring scrimmage, Saturday, April 12, 2014.

By Kyle Goon

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 12 2014 08:38PM
Updated Apr 13, 2014 08:47PM

Logan • Almost as soon as the tipped pass bounced into his hands, Devin Centers was in stride. To the 40, to the 30, to the 20 — nothing was about to stop him from taking his interception all the way.

Well, just one thing: Craig Harrison’s red jersey as it popped in his path.

Not eager to stiffarm a quarterback in a spring scrimmage, Centers tried to cut back. He was tackled two yards short of the goal line, and the sophomore safety was left laughing at himself at what might have been.

" It’s OK. In a game, it’ll be a different story," he said. "I’ll be in the end zone, we’ll be celebrating, and all the crowd will be cheering and everything."

The Utah State football team couldn’t do everything live in Saturday’s spring game at Romney Stadium, but in moments, the Aggies and the thousands who turned out were caught up in moments that they hope will translate to Saturdays this fall.

The final scrimmage between the offensive and defensive units went down to the wire. In the end, the "Blue team" made up of the offense won under the game’s specialized scoring system, 78-77, with a 39-yard Nick Diaz field goal that led to very real celebration on the sideline and in the stands. It’s just a reflection of what Utah State hopes to be this fall, when the real games start. But coach Matt Wells was pleased by signs of progress, as well as the competitiveness with August months away.

"That’s a neat way to end the spring," Wells said of Diaz’s field goal at the buzzer. "It’s been very productive. I thought today was good in a lot of ways."

While last year’s spring game showcased the defense much more than the offense, just about every unit had their chance to shine on Saturday.

Among the most surprising standouts were the top two running backs, Rashad Hall and Kennedy Williams, who ran for a combined 219 yards on 34 carries behind offensive linemen trying to replace four productive starters.

Hall nearly got loose for a touchdown on a 78-yard run before being pulled down at the last second by Centers. While the running game had up-and-down moments this spring, the spring game was a bit of validation for the backs as well as their blockers.

"Talking about the O-line today, they did a really good job today giving us a good push," Williams said. "Our guards on our inside zone, they were pushing really good today."

While Darell Garretson did get "sacked" — quarterbacks wear non-contact jerseys, so sacks are more subjective — several times, including twice by Kyler Fackrell, he did make the most of his completions with 221 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Brandon Swindall accounted for one of the scores, catching a contested ball in the back of the end zone for a 29-yard strike.

But a defense on the prowl for turnovers got its share: In addition to his pick, Centers also had a forced fumble which was recovered by Torrey Green. Derek Larsen also had a late interception off of Jordan Brown.

The defense’s best stretch came in the third quarter of the scrimmage, when it forced four straight three-and-outs. Fackrell said the game got him hungry for the real thing.

"I’m ready to play the season right now," he said. "I wish we could. But there’s a lot of improvement left to make as a defense, individually as well as our physical makeup getting bigger and stronger too. So were going to take advantage of every second of it."

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