Line: USU -21.0 via ESPN
Final Score: USU 36, Nevada 10
Aggies cruise to ugly but easy win over Nevada
Recap: It was a cold night for the Utah State Aggie offense in Logan, but Utah State’s defense and special teams played lights out against the visiting Nevada Wolf Pack to secure a much needed conference victory.
The Aggie defense bent early on, allowing the Wolf Pack to go on a decent drive to start the game off. However, an untimely false start (the first of many for Nevada) killed a chance at a touchdown for the Pack. They ended up settling for a field goal. It would be the only time of the night Nevada would hold a lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Nevada made the foolish decision to kick directly to Savon Scarver. He then promptly blew past multiple Wolf Pack defenders in the middle and hit pay dirt in a mere 12 seconds. This gave the Aggies a lead they would never relinquish and signaled the beginning of a long night for the visitors from Reno.
With the score, Savon Scarver broke the school record for kick returns for a touchdown with five in his career. Aggie great Kevin Robinson previously held the record with four. This year alone, Scarver has two kick returns for a touchdown, which is good for first in the country.
Special teams play had the Aggies sitting pretty early, and that only helped to elevate a stellar performance by the Utah State defense. After Aggie punter Christopher Bartolic pinned the Pack inside the 2-yard line, DE Justus Te’i went to work and downed stud Nevada rusher Toa Taua for a safety, USU’s first since 2015.
Nevada’s offense went three and out numerous times this game, and they were only able to secure a touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, the Aggie D held Toa Taua to just 84 yards on 20 carries. Minus his one big touchdown run late in the game, he was essentially a non-factor for the Wolf Pack. Altogether, Nevada rushed for only 113 net yards, a very impressive statistic considering Nevada typically runs quite well.
Through the air, the Pack didn’t fare any better. QB Malik Henry rarely got his team into scoring position, throwing 17/38 for 213 yards and two picks. Utah State’s defensive line was able to generate plenty of good pressure and force him into poor or ill-advised throws. He was never comfortable in the pocket and there were also several noticeable low snaps that stalled out plays before they could fully develop.
Another (mostly) offensive performance by Aggie offense
Though it’s always a team effort, Utah State’s offense continues to disappoint. The Aggies had great field position all night thanks to stellar defense and special teams play. However, prior to the fourth quarter, USU only nabbed 13 points from the offense.
Jordan Love has yet to break out of his passing slump, throwing 13/31 for 169 yards, one TD and one pick. It would have been two picks if the Pack’s other grab wasn’t waived off due to one of their silly mental errors.
It’s true that USU has had some injury issues along the offensive line as of late. Nonetheless, they need to protect Love better than they did last night, giving up three sacks. Love was forced into long third down throws that killed momentum and gave the ball back to the Wolf Pack a little more than I would have liked.
Love was not all to blame for the poor offensive showing early on. His receivers need to help him out more. There were plenty of catchable balls that Jordan Nathan and Siaosi Mariner simply dropped. If they haul even just a couple more of those passes, the score could have easily been in the 50 point range for USU.
Late in the game, whether the Pack wore down on defense or something started to click for USU’s offense, the big plays finally came. Gerold Bright ripped off a 67 yard run that all but iced the game. Shortly after Nevada had to punt the ball again, Love dropped a 48 yard bomb to Siaosi Mariner to set up another Gerold Bright touchdown run. The offense finally started looking like the offense of yesteryear and reminded me this team can score in a hurry when it wants to.
I’m never one to complain for a comfortable win, especially over a team Utah State has historically struggled against. All time, though the Aggies have won 3 of the last 4 meetings, the Aggies are just 7-18 against Nevada.
With that being said, this offense needs to perform better if the Aggies want to contend for the conference crown. The talent is there, but the execution as of late has not been up to snuff. The receivers need to catch the easy balls Love throws them, and Love needs to stop forcing the issue and throwing into double and triple coverage.
I genuinely think part of this issue will fix itself once the Aggies can re-establish their rush attack. Jaylen Warren returned to action last night after sustaining an injury vs Colorado State a few weeks ago. His presence was badly needed and helped bolster the running game considerably.
Though it appears the Aggies are who they are this late in the season, the team is still 4-2. If they can go blow to blow with Air Force this week in Colorado Springs and get the tough yardage on the ground, they’ll have a shot at another statement conference win. Love may even be able to recapture some of the magic from last season and propel the Aggies down a grueling a seven-game stretch to greatness.
But those receivers need to catch the ball when thrown their way!