Nevada Football: Three Keys And A Prediction For Nevada Vs Utah State
Here are three keys and a prediction for the Nevada Wolf Pack’s contest against Utah State on Saturday.
Can The Wolf Pack Defeat The Aggies?
The Nevada Wolf Pack will be on the road this Saturday night as they will take on the Utah State Aggies in Logan,Utah. The contest between the Wolf Pack and the Aggies will have a scheduled kick-off of 7:15pm PST and will be televised on ESPNU.
Nevada is coming off a nail-biting victory last week at home where they defeated San Jose State 41-38. Wolf Pack place kicker Brandon Talton, who was one of the names listed on ESPN’s Mid-Season All-American team, nailed a 40-yard field goal to lift Nevada to victory over the Spartans in the closing seconds of the game.
In that contest against San Jose State, the Wolf Pack got a big-time performance from running back Toa Taua who ran for 160 yards and scored a rushing touchdown. Also quarterback Malik Henry, who was making his first FBS start, helped out as well as he threw for 352 yards and one touchdown pass.
The Wolf Pack offense performed well in the victory over the Spartans but the defense was abysmal. The Nevada defense struggled against Spartans quarterback Josh Love as he threw for 405 yards and three touchdown passes as the Wolf Pack could not stop the Spartans offense.
Nevada is playing an Aggies team who was last in action two weeks ago when they were hammered by LSU 42-6. The Aggies, led by quarterback Jordan Love, are looking to bounce back after that embarrassment by defeating Nevada on Saturday night.
Can the Wolf Pack get a rare road win under Jay Norvell by defeating Utah State and extend the Aggies losing streak? Here are my keys and a prediction.
Improvement for the Wolf Pack defense (especially the secondary)
The Wolf Pack defense after six games has been for lack of a better term, awful. The Nevada defense had a hard time stopping Spartans quarterback Josh Love last Saturday and this Saturday offers no reprieve as Jordan Love is the quarterback Nevada must try to stop.
The problem with Nevada’s defense is two-fold. One as Matthew Kenerly explained in his midseason questions for every Mountain West team article this week, Nevada has a sack rate of only 3.4 percent and on standard downs that rate is even lower. The second problem is that a lack of a pass rush is hurting the Wolf Pack secondary as they are giving up an average of 373 passing yards per game and 20 touchdown passes and those numbers are just staggering.
There really is nowhere to go but up for this Nevada defense and it is critical that they improve their performance. Going up against a Utah State team that has Jordan Love and his compliment of players such as running back Gerold Bright, Jaylen Warren and wide receiver Siaosi Mariner it is not going to be easy but Nevada’s defense must play better if they are going to win on Saturday.
Malik Henry must have a good game on the road.
In his first FBS start last week, Nevada quarterback Malik Henry had a solid performance against San Jose State. He did throw for 352 yards and a touchdown pass but he did throw two interceptions and had an unsportsmanlike penalty called against him. Despite those missteps, Henry did inject some life into a Nevada offense that looked listless in games against Oregon and Hawaii.
Henry is going to get a tougher challenge this week on the road against an Utah State defense that has given up only four touchdowns in two Mountain West conference games. If Malik Henry can use his athleticism and arm strength to attack a stingy Aggies defense, the Wolf Pack has a chance to pull off the victory on Saturday night.
Nevada must limit penalties and turnovers
Last week against San Jose State, the Wolf Pack turned the ball over three times and committed nine penalties for a total of 91 penalty yards. With these numbers it is a bit stunning that the Wolf Pack were able to come away with the victory over the Spartans.
San Jose State is an improving team but Utah State is a better team than San Jose State. Nevada must cut out the penalties and not turn the ball over if they want to win on Saturday.
Prediction and Score
Nevada got a much needed win last week against San Jose State. But there were some issues that the Wolf Pack had last week such as penalties, turnovers and a poor defense that needs to be corrected as they take on Utah State this Saturday.
Jordan Love has struggled a bit as he has thrown six touchdowns and eight interceptions so far this season. However, Utah State does have a running back duo in Bright and Warren that is making things easier for Love. If the Wolf Pack defense has one strength, it is stopping the run and if they can limit the Utah State rushing attack, it could give Nevada a chance to win the game.
But the problem with Nevada is stopping the opposition’s passing game and despite Jordan Love’s struggles this season, he is a good passer and if Love gets the passing game going, it could be a long night for Nevada.
Nevada does have a chance to win because of Malik Henry and the rushing attack led by Toa Taua and Devonte Lee. If Henry plays well, limits his mistakes and if the running game can get some traction, then Nevada will have a chance to pull off the win.
But this Aggies defense is a strong, stingy unit and I believe the combination of the Utah State defense and Jordan Love torching the Wolf Pack secondary will be too much for Nevada to overcome. I feel this game will be close but in the end, the Wolf Pack will leave Logan with a loss.
Score Prediction: Utah State 28 Nevada 20