One week after a thrilling overtime win over San Jose State on Senior Day, Nevada found a heartbreaking way to lose at Utah State.
The Wolf Pack led 27-7 in the third quarter in Logan, Utah last Saturday but watched the Aggies rattle off 24 unanswered points and hand Nevada a 31-27 loss.
Utah State’s game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter came when junior quarterback Tyler Stewart, the hero a week ago, couldn’t handle a snap backed up on the goal line and whiffed trying to recover the fumble, allowing the Aggies to jump on it for six.
Nevada fell to 6-5, 4-3 in conference play and is already bowl eligible but not guaranteed a bowl berth. The loss also eliminated the Pack from Mountain West title contention.
San Diego State and Air Force will play for the conference title.
To secure a bowl berth, Nevada could certainly use a win in its regular-season finale. Easier said than done.
The Wolf Pack goes to Mountain West—West champion San Diego State, on Saturday.
Kickoff is at 7:45 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN2.
About the Aztecs
Coach: Rocky Long (fifth season, 40-23)
2014 Finish: 7-6, 5-3 (second MW—West)
2015 Record: 8-3, 7-0
Quarterback: Maxwell Smith is the Aztecs’ guy. He’s completing 54.3 percent of his passes this year while throwing for an average of 135 yards per game. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns compared with just two interceptions. Nevada does not need to worry about Smith running all over the place. He’s only gained 59 yards this season when tucking the rock.
Dangerous Weapons: The Aztecs are a run-first team and they are led by Donne Pumphrey. SDSU’s stud back averages just shy of 120 rushing yards per game and has scored 13 of the team’s 14 rushing touchdowns. Although wide receiver Mikah Holder has only caught 21 balls for 356 yards, he’s caught five of Smith’s 14 touchdown tosses—easily the team-high.
What to look for
–A turnover (fumble in the end zone that resulted in a Utah State touchdown) accounted for the go-ahead score in Nevada’s road loss last week. The Aztecs have scored 99 points off turnovers and own the conference’s best turnover margin (+13). Nevada (+10) is second.
-Leading 14-0 early last week at Utah State, the Wolf Pack let the Aggies back in the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown. San Diego State averages 29.5 yards a kickoff return—which easily leads the conference—and has taken two kicks to the house.
-Nevada’s offense will be going at a San Diego State defense that leads the conference in yards allowed per game (287.0). The Aztecs have also allowed a conference-low 20 touchdowns.
Nevada is eliminated from conference-title contention but still has plenty to play for in the final week of the season while the Aztecs do not. They have already secured a spot in the Mountain West title game. It would be easy to see this one as a trap game for the Aztecs, on Senior Day, but they haven’t lost since falling 37-21 at Penn State on Sept. 26.
San Diego State 24, Nevada 13