Utah State football: Defense gains momentum late in Aggies scrimmage
College football • USU's offense struggles to break through in red zone.
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Logan •┬áTravis Reynolds had his moment. The senior receiver tiptoed the sideline on a 40-yard pass — a punch to the secondary that took Utah State's first-team offense from its own end zone to midfield.

But by the time Reynolds and company made their way down to the end zone, moments like those became pretty hard to find for the offense.

"Our defense — they were a heck of a defense today," said Reynolds, who had just one reception. "They bowed up in the red zone."

Scrimmages are a long way from conference championship games, but Utah State's defensive unit seemed to gain momentum during Thursday's scrimmage — the team's first of the spring — at Romney Stadium. After giving up 60-yard and 25-yard touchdown drives early, the Aggies defense showed impressive resolve against the offensive units in the end zone.

On drills that began 15 yards away from paydirt, the offensive units couldn't break through for touchdowns. That went with three interceptions, five sacks, six tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery in just over 100 snaps.

On two-minute drills at the end of the game, the defense didn't allow any points from the first or second teams. Pressure in the pocket from Jake Doughty, Zach Vigil and Kyler Fackrell helped make the difference.

"That's the mark of a great defense, when you make somebody kick field goals," coach Matt Wells said. "It's not about the yards. It's points given up and points scored. They stoned the offense right out of the gate the first series of the red zone."

That didn't mean the defense was dominant. The first team offense had success, including a 60-yard drive that finished with a short, contested touchdown pass to Brandon Swindall. He also fueled a 92-yard drive that brought the offense to the cusp of a touchdown, but it was forced to settle for a field goal.

Joe Hill and Jojo Natson also strengthened their claims for starting roles. Hill ran for 41 yards and caught three passes for 24 yards. Natson had six catches for 69 yards while working out of the slot.

The second- and third-team battles were much more one-sided, with reserve quarterbacks going 6-for-25 for 91 yards. Backup quarterback Jeff Manning threw three picks on a 1-for-10 day. Travis Parrish (interceptions, tackle for a loss) and Bridger Peck (sack, tackle for a loss, pass breakup) were among the more active players.

Craig Harrison found success on a drive starting at the 25, eventually diving into the end zone for a score. Receiver Dwayne Lorick might've gotten away with a push, but still managed to come down with a 33-yard bomb from walk-on quarterback Jordan Brown.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

A closer look

Utah State's defense gets some stops late in spring scrimmage:

• Aggies hold offensive units to no touchdowns in two-minute drills, 15-yard drills.

• Utah State's defense credited with three picks, five sacks and six tackles for a loss.

• Chuckie Keeton stands out on offense, throwing for 186 yards and a touchdown.