Utah St Washington St Football Scarver

Utah State wide receiver Savon Scarver carries the ball during the second half of an NCAA football game against Washington State, Sept. 4, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Savon Scarver could have made a run for the NFL. It certainly would have been in character.

This is a Utah State bolt of lightning who boasts career kickoff returns, runs that have covered 100, 100, 100, 99, 96 and 94 yards. He clearly doesn’t like to play it safe, and an NFL team surely would have given him a look as a special teams weapon.

But Scarver is back for a second senior season (utilizing extra eligibility provided for all through the NCAA because of COVID-19) not because he didn’t want to make a run at the NFL; but because he didn’t want to run away from the situation in Logan, Utah.

“I considered going pro,” Scarver told The Gazette at Mountain West media days in July. “I thought about it. But I couldn’t leave Utah State with a losing culture because that’s not what it was when I got here. That’s something that made me come back, to finish my education and to change the culture of what it was last year because that’s not what the Aggies are.

“Being an Aggie is about winning games. And having a brotherhood, forming relationships with your brothers for life.”

The situation really was a mess last year. Utah State fired coach Gary Anderson after an 0-3 start. The football side of things continued to fall downhill during a 1-5 season, but off the field it was even worse. The players eventually chose to boycott the season finale against Colorado State, citing insensitive comments the university president made when discussing concerns over installing interim coach Frank Maile as the permanent coach and also over the refusal to fire an equipment manager over what the players reported as a racial slur directed at a Black player. The manager was switched to a different assignment but retained by the school.

The situation has been resolved under new coach Blake Anderson, and Scarver is still there, providing the big-play threat in special teams.

In an opening victory at Washington State he returned three kickoffs for 65 yards. Last week in a win over North Dakota he was involved in the offense and caught a pair of passes.

Scarver and the Aggies (2-0) come to Air Force on Saturday, facing a Falcons team that doesn’t need to be reminded of the importance of the kicking game.

At Navy, Air Force gave up a field goal — the Midshipmen’s only points — after a dropped snap and a rushed punt traveled just 12 yards and set up a short field. They also scored their first touchdown after a short punt, created a turnover on a punt and extended a touchdown-scoring drive because of a Navy roughing-the-kicker flag.

When Scarver visited Falcon Stadium in 2019 Air Force was able to take him out of the game by kicking off through the end zone.

Falcons (2-0) coach Troy Calhoun said there will certainly be a strategy for him Saturday in the Mountain West opener for both teams, but executing the strategy is another matter.

The coach also reached deep into the well of football comparisons, citing Billy “White Shoes” Johnson (who last played in an NFL game in 1988) when talking about the unique style and shiftiness Scarver possesses.

“The way they can break tackles, and the way they need just a little crease, a little daylight, and it’s gone,” Calhoun said.

Scarver needs one more kickoff return to match an NCAA record. He came back for other reasons, but he still relishes the role that put him on the cusp of that mark.

“I just want to be that electric guy, be that playmaker,” he said. “Get the ball and make a big play.”

Contact the writer: brent.briggeman@gazette.com

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