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Utah State rolls out fast offense, strong defense in annual spring game

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LOGAN — Utah State football held its annual spring game Saturday afternoon at Maverik Stadium, and it was the defense that came out on top in a special scoring system, 75-64 under a modified scoring system that rewarded defensive plays like touchdowns, turnovers, three-and-outs, stopped drives, and sacks, among other incentives.

Kent Myers completed 10-of-12 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown, and Jordan Love saw the majority of backup snaps under center with 236 yards passing with an interception.

On the ground, Justen Hervey scored on a 2-yard touchdown run for Utah State, and backup quarterback DJ Nelson added a 4-yard TD plunge in the second half for the Aggies.

Here are a few quick observations from the scrimmage.

The quarterback position is Kent Myers' job, if not officially

Myers showed why he is at the top of the depth chart on Saturday afternoon. Myers led the first-team offense on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 21-yard touchdown pass to Gerold Bright on the first drive of the game.

On the next series that Myers was at quarterback, Myers broke loose on an 85-yard run. The run set up a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Hervey on the next play.

"We wanted to come out at the beginning of the game and play quick and score, get that juice and momentum going," Myers said. "We did pretty well on that, but there are a lot of things we can still work on."

Still, USU head coach Matt Wells skirted around the idea that the senior from Rowlett, Texas, solidified the starting job Saturday.

"I would say he absolutely took the lead coming out of spring," Wells said. "He stretched it. I thought in the last six practices, he's really made a lot of good strides, consistency. There's a lot on the quarterback in this offense in terms of audibles and plays, and he distanced himself a little bit (from Jordan Love and DJ Nelson). … I would say he absolutely took the lead coming out of spring."

The offensive line will be a work in progress

When you lose two offensive linemen to graduation who started all 12 games in 2016, there is a lot to ask. Add in the increase in tempo that new offensive coordinator David Yost wants to implement, and there is a lot of work to do in the trenches.

It showed when the Aggies struggled to score inside the 10-yard line. Run after run was stopped either behind the line of scrimmage or right at it, and the USU offense couldn't punch it in from a yard or two out on several occasions.

"I felt like they gave the quarterbacks plenty of time to throw," Wells said. "Some of that is still a little hard to evaluate because quarterbacks weren't live. We have to make better strides in the run game, but I thought the defense did a nice job on the flip side. I don't think we ran the ball real well today."

Senior Preston Brooksby and KJ Uluave will have to anchor an inexperienced offensive line. Brooksby and Uluave are the only returning starters up front, and if USU is to have success in the 2017 season, the offensive line will have to get up to speed quickly after the Aggies' 3-9 season that kept them out of a bowl game for the first time since 2011.

Photo: Jeff Hunter, Deseret News
Photo: Jeff Hunter, Deseret News

USU's defense was solid

The defense forced two interceptions, one of which was on the final play of the scrimmage. It was led by junior linebacker Chase Christiansen, who racked up nine tackles and a tackle for loss. Junior nose guard Gasetoto Schuster recorded two sacks in the game.

The defense came up big in the red zone, especially in the second half. On the second drive of the game, the offense went 65 yards in 17 plays, but the defense held strong and forced a field goal attempt.

In the second half, the defense forced the two interceptions, allowed just one touchdown and shut down the offense when it counted most; inside the 5-yard line.

"It was kind of rough at times and we gave up too many yards," Christiansen said. "But in the end, we made some stops on the goal line, which was huge for us. Overall, it was decent, but not where we want it to be. We've got a lot to improve on."

The offense is fast and furious

Yost wants to quicken the tempo and get things moving, and on Saturday, the Aggies did just that. USU ran over 100 plays with a continuously running clock. Imagine that, 15-minute quarters with the clock not stopping except the last two minutes of the first and second halves, and the USU offense was able to run more than 100 plays.

It wasn't always efficient, but it is something that Myers will thrive in. In a conference not known for its stellar defensive play, it could help the Aggies compete for a Mountain West Conference championship.

"We've added some little wrinkles, and we're trying to play with an up-tempo approach," Yost said earlier in the week. "We're trying to attack down the field with the throwing game. … We want to be a high-volume team and get a lot of yards. We're trying to get as many plays as we can, which helps with opportunities to score but also helps with putting up yards and putting pressure on the other team's defense, but also puts pressure on the other team's offense by putting points up on the board."

Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. He is a communication major at UVU and will graduate in the spring of 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias.


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