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Utah State football: Kicking unit shows improvement

Published November 5, 2013 5:39 pm

College football • Ags put extra emphasis on not letting kicks get blocked.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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 • The heat was on for the special teams unit during Utah State's bye week.

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando made sure of that. If there had been any slack in the kick blocking unit for practice, it disappeared.

"We had the defensive coordinator rush us more that usual," kicker Nick Diaz recalled. "Put pressure on all sides of the line, pressure my timing and really put us to the test, especially the first week of the bye week."

That under-the-gun feel was critical, Diaz said, to help correct some issues in the kicking game. Leading into Hawaii, the Aggies' special teams had a field-goal attempt blocked in three straight games, prompting coach Matt Wells to say he was not happy with the unit.

The emphasis on timing and blocking assignments paid off in Saturday's 47-10 win, as Diaz was 3 for 3 on his attempts and perfect on his extra points. Freshman Jake Thompson booted a 52-yard field goal as well that the team roundly agreed would've been good for quite a few more yards.

"Definitely a big confidence booster to go out there and watch the line execute the way they can, along with the snapper, holder and kicker getting our timing down and doing our part as well," Diaz said. "It was really nice to see the unit execute the way that it should and have a nice flow and put points up for the offense."

There was a little panic for Diaz early, as the first extra point of the game was partially deflected. It went through the uprights anyway, and the junior shook it off.

"It definitely startled me a little bit, but it went through and that was nice to see," he said. "Fortunately, part of the training of being a kicker is that you have short-term memory loss. You forget about it and move on to the next one."

Coaches are hopeful that Diaz and company don't forget to keep kicking like they did against the Rainbow Warriors.

Aggies looking at Romney Stadium upgrades

After 46 years, you might take a long look in the mirror, too.

Utah State announced Tuesday that it has hired a consulting firm, Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, to figure out what it can do to improve Romney Stadium. The 25,500-capacity venue has had just a few adjustments since its construction in 1968, and athletic director Scott Barnes hasn't hidden his desire to improve the stadium and overall fan experience for football games.

The first step: a survey. Utah State athletics sent out a survey to local ticketholders, donors and alumni to see what the people want, so to speak. The survey seeks to gauge interest in a number of new potential features: "wider concourses, new concessions, restrooms, video boards, the creation of new premium seating areas" among them, according to the survey e-mail.

Utah State has built or is building a number of facilities to improve the student-athlete experience in recent years: a football complex, a weight room, and the under-construction Estes Center. Barnes said in a recent interview the department's long-term plan is to work on projects that better serve fans.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

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