improved: defense better in second outing
By Tim Olsen
April 15, 2009 - Logan | After a lackluster performance
in USU's first official scrimmage of the spring season,
the defense stepped it up in a big way during round
two Saturday at Romney Stadium.
"We just made more tackles and swarmed a lot more
compared to the last scrimmage," said senior cornerback
Kejon Murphy. "We improved in knowing our assignments
and just playing the game. We need to just play the
game and not think so much. That was key to the improvement."
The defense stuffed the offense on its first two possessions
holding them to a back-to-back three and outs as
they set the tone for the scrimmage early.
Murphy finished with four tackles and drive-stopping
interception near the end of the scrimmage, while the
freshman safety Cache Morgan let all players with 10
"The defense played much better, we had better emotion
with the first two groups," USU head coach Gary Andersen
said. "They tackled much better, it was a much more
competitive scrimmage. It is what you would look at
and say, 'That is Division I football.'"
The scrimmage was indeed competitive and that attitude
was embodied in a play that took place between wide
receiver Austin Alder and safety James Brindley. Brindley
appeared to intercept a pass thrown by quarterback Diondre
Borel, but Alder was able to wrestle the ball away from
the safety, giving the offense a first down at the 11-yard
"The last two weeks Austin has done a really nice
job, he is really starting to make that contested catch,"
Andersen said. "At the first of spring practice we had
a hard time catching the ball, but now we are starting
to make some plays."
Alder finished with six receptions for a scrimmage
high 61 yards.
"Last scrimmage it was all run game but I felt like
today the passing game finally kicked in," Alder said.
"The line is blocking well and picking up the blitz
and the receivers are running better routes. It was
an all around good effort."
Despite the defensive improvement, there was impressive
play by more than the receivers on the offensive side
of the ball.
Sophomore quarterback Diondre Borel completed 19 of
24 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, as well
as rushing for 84 yards on six carries including an
impressive 70-yard jaunt.
Equally impressive on the day was the play of redshirt
freshman quarterback Exavier Johnson. Johnson worked
mostly with the second team Saturday after working with
the third team in the previous scrimmage, and he made
the most of his time.
Johnson completed 11 of 19 passes for 103 yards and
rushed for 40 yards and two punishing touchdowns that
both ended with defenders on their backs.
"I am not real excited about the quarterback ducking
his shoulder and taking guys on, but it does show a
kid that has got a lot of fire," said Andersen of Johnson's
performance. "He's got something to prove, and plays
with that chip on his shoulder, we need more of that,
we need to have more of that swagger."
The scrimmage concluded with the first, second and
third team offenses going against their respective defenses
in late game situation drills.
The offense got the ball on its own 30-yard line trailing
by four with 1:15 to play and two timeouts.
During the battle of the first team crews, the offensive
drive was cut short by Murphy's interception. The senior
had an opportunity to return the pick for a touchdown,
but slid down to preserve the win.
In the matchup of the second teams, the offense had
more luck. This time, under the direction of freshman
QB Adam Eastman, the offense was able to find the endzone.
After driving nearly 50 yards down the field, Eastman
connected with sophomore wide receiver Stanley Morrison
for a 22-yard TD with six seconds left.
"What we have challenged them to do now is take that
next step, they need to expect more out of themselves,"
Andersen said. "I felt like we have had some kids step
up and do that today."
The Aggies will continue to work in practice this
week before showcasing their talents at the annual Blue
& White game this Saturday at 2 p.m.