Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe checked out Utah State football practice on Thursday:
Logan - The touchdowns came more easily for Utah State's offense via long drives than on scripted opportunities that started closer to the goal line Thursday at Romney Stadium.
In the scrimmage portion of the Aggies' ninth of 15 sessions in spring practice, the offense dominated early before the defense re-established itself.
"We came out pretty strong and took it to the defense, but we kind of slowed down and didn't finish as well as we wanted to," said running back Joe Hill.
On the other side, "It's really, really frustrating as a defense to start out that slow," said linebacker Zach Vigil.
But the defense toughened during the red-zone segments. "That's where we really pull together as a defense and stand strong," Vigil said. "As long as we continue to do that, we'll be OK."
Vigil provided the first-team defense's biggest highlight of the day, intercepting a Chuckie Keeton pass on the first play of a two-minute drill. While quarterbacks are off-limits to tacklers, Keeton was allowed to tackle Vigil, which surprised the linebacker. "When Chuckie's coming at you, you don't know if you can touch him or not," Vigil said.
Keeton completed 8 of 13 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. The first score came via a short pass to Hill, who turned the reception into a 38-yard score to complete a 70-yard drive on the opening series.
On the first-team offense's second drive, Hill caught a 24-yard pass that led to a field goal, after the defense made a stop on a first-and-goal situation.
Keeton's other TD pass went to receiver Brandon Swindall on a possession that began at the defense's 12-yard line.
Backup quarterback Craig Harrison also tossed TD passes, including a 33-yarder to Swindall on a downfield throw into the end zone. Tight end Keegan Andersen caught four passes in 50 yards and coach Matt Wells was happy to have fewer dropped passes overall, citing "a little bit of renewed focus from those guys."
Generally, Wells liked how both the offense and defense had good moments, continuing the theme of the spring. Of course, the defense's red-zone success represented a shortcoming of the offense. "Whether it's fatigue mentally or physically on the offense's part, they've got to overcome that," Wells said.
The Aggies will resume practice Monday with another scrimmage scheduled Thursday.
Kurt Kragthorpekkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt