The Utah State football team held its second scrimmage of fall camp on Sat. Aug. 16 at Romney Stadium. 9,000 fans turned out for the annual Family Fun Day festivities, which included youth football games, Aggie apparel sales and an autograph session.
In all, it was a fun day for the whole family. But, the reason Aggie fans made the pilgrimage to the Logan, Utah campus was to see Chuckie Keeton play. Though Aggie coaches split Keeton's duties with last year's starter, Darell Garretson, Keeton did not disappoint.
Keeton led the Aggies on its first scoring drive to open the scrimmage. Wearing a red No. 16 jersey--which means he couldn't be tackled--the Heisman candidate was cool under pressure, taking what the defense gave him.
Keeton came out with a point to prove--albeit against the Aggies' second-string defense. And he did, leading Utah State's first-team offense down the field at will, capping a 75-yard, 11-play drive with a nice fade to wide receiver JoJo Natson, who made an acrobatic catch over his shoulder in the corner of the end zone.
Now out of head coach Matt Wells' doghouse it seems, Natson had a nice day, catching five passes for 28 yards and that TD grab.
“JoJo is one of those guys you’ve just got to get the ball into his hands one way or another and after that, you just let him do his thing,” Keeton said post-game. “With him, he’s best when he’s out in space.”
Then the first-team defense walked on the field--perhaps with a point to prove after being humiliated in the first scrimmage. This Aggie offense that ruled Romney Stadium with an iron fist last week found itself in an unfamiliar spot Saturday. It didn't score any points on its next six possessions.
On the ensuing, or seventh drive of the game, however, the offense got it right. Facing third down at the defense's 27-yard line, Keeton stepped up into the pocket, rolled two steps to his right and fired a laser against his body to junior wide receiver Hunter Sharp who was running a crossing route the other direction. Sharp caught Keeton's bullet in stride and jogged into the end zone.
Keeton completed just 14 of his 30 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a few highlight reel sprints into the end zone--but those might have been stopped had Keeton not worn a red jersey on Saturday.
"There are two or three things that stand out to me. First of all, I thought Chuckie (Keeton) was really sharp. There were some things we did on offense that weren't so sharp, some center snaps getting away from us, but we'll get that cleaned up," USU head coach Matt Wells said post-game.
Then the Aggies would go cold again, failing to score on its next five possessions. For the afternoon during the full-field scrimmage portion, Utah State's offense scored on just two of its 13 drives.
When the units went to red-zone situations, the offense began to pick up steam, settling for two field goals before scoring two touchdowns, one from running back Rashad Hall and one from a two-yard TD pass from Darell Garretson, the QB who took over when Keeton got hurt. Garrretson had an even worse day than Keeton, throwing for a paltry 76 yards.
in all, it was a fairly ho-hum day from the Aggie offense--and a complete turnaround for a defense that got shelled in the first scrimmage. Still and all, said head coach Matt Wells, there wasn't much to worry about with his offense struggling.
The defense ruled the day, recording four sacks from four players as well as four QB hurries. It flew all over the field, making an eye-popping 66 tackles in 100 plays--the most coming from cornerback Jentz Painter (6).
Aggie quarterbacks threw the ball 59 times, completing less than half of its attempts. The concern might stem from an ineffective running game--which compounded the problems in the passing game.
Only 96 rushing yards were gained on Saturday afternoon, 59 of which came from starter Joe Hill on just four carries. It's safe to say that the Aggies could be in big trouble if something happened to Hill--but Wells took it all in stride.
"For the second scrimmage it was still pretty good for the offense. The defense stepped up a little bit, especially the No. 1 defense. Overall it was a good day. We still have a lot of work to do, in my opinion, but I see a lot of potential in this team. We're making strides to being a great team and this was one of those first big steps, being able to perform in front of a crowd."