LOGAN, Utah -
For the second time in as many spring scrimmages, Utah State's defense dominated the day as the Aggies held their third scrimmage of camp Thursday afternoon on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium.
"There were a lot of key defensive plays from a safety to a forced fumble and a touchdown to a pick six," said sixth-year USU head coach Matt Wells. "They almost picked up where they left off last year, and that's a very good sign. The takeaways and two plays for touchdown by the defense, that is a tremendous day by them."
Two touchdowns highlighted the day for the defense as senior cornerback Deante Fortenberry returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown and senior linebacker Suli Tamaivena returned a fumble three yards for a score.
"Today's practice was good for the defense," Tamaivena said. "We did a really good job. We only allowed one touchdown, and we stopped them in the red zone, so today, we did well. I know when we go back and watch film, we'll have little areas here and there to fix up, but besides that, the defense did a great job.
"The fumble recovery just surprised me. I saw the running back coming up, and somebody hit him really good and the ball just popped out. The Lord blessed me with the ball, and I just took it."
While Fortenberry had the lone interception on the day, sophomore safety Baron Gajkowski had a forced fumble and fumble recovery, to go along with three tackles. Redshirt junior linebacker Tipa Galeai also forced a fumble and led the defense with six tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.
"Today was good," said Fortenberry, who finished the day with five tackles and a pass breakup. "It's becoming easier for the whole defense. We're gelling together and I feel like it's getting better."
Other defensive highlights included senior safety Aaron Wade recording a safety and redshirt junior defensive end Fua Leilua notching 3.0 sacks as part of the team's 11.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks.
"We want to apply pressure, plus we have a lot of good players that can come out and pressure, so that's what we're doing," Tamaivena said. "We're using everybody. Since we have the players to pressure, we're going to. We have it, the coaches trust us and we're going to go with it."
Offensively, Utah State scored two touchdowns - both by junior running back Gerold Bright on a 6-yard pass from freshman quarterback Andrew Peasley and a 4-yard run. Peasley led the three Aggie quarterbacks on the day by going 13-of-20 for 101 yards, including a long of 18.
The Aggies gained 241 yards of total offense on 83 plays - an average of 2.9 yards per play. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Love was 8-of-15 for 79 yards and one touchdown, while redshirt freshman quarterback Henry Colombi was 8-of-14 for 27 yards.
"The longer I've coached, the more I've seen it, it's never as bad as it seems, but it's never as good as it seems until you watch the tape," Wells said. "It was a good day by the defense and there were certainly some big plays."
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Cole Christensen led all receivers on the day with four receptions for 49 yards. Bright had eight carries for 16 yards.
Utah State's offense opened the scrimmage with a 12-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 29-yard field goal by Dominik Eberle. The junior placekicker made both of his field goals on the afternoon, including a long of 40 yards. Sophomore placekicker Connor Coles added a 30-yard field goal of his own.
Utah State will wrap up its spring schedule next week, practicing on Tuesday from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and on Thursday from 6-8 a.m., before holding its annual Blue vs. White Spring Game on Saturday, April 7, on Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium at 2 p.m.
Season ticket renewals are currently being accepted in advance of the March 30 deadline. To renew, fans should visit www.utahstateaggies.com or do so in person or by phone through the USU Ticket Office during regular business hours (435-797-0305). New season ticket orders can also be made.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
2018 Utah State Football Spring Practice Dates
Tuesday, April 3 - 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 5 - 6-8 a.m.
Saturday, April 7 - 2 p.m. - Blue vs. White Spring Game
* - All practice days, times and locations are subject to change.
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