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Nevada squeaks past San Diego State 26-21 to remain undefeated

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Nevada at San Diego State Photo by Alan Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Nevada Wolf Pack (5-0) escaped with their second consecutive nail biter Saturday with a 26-21 victory over San Diego State at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev.

Following a near-costly interception by Nevada quarterback Carson Strong, Nevada’s defense held its ground on a goal line stand on its own 26-yard-line with 3:23 remaining.

A six-yard completion to Daniel Bellinger and a one-yard run by Chance Bell gave the Aztecs a first-and-goal at the Wolf Pack 4-yard-line.

The ensuing play sequence?

  • 1st & Goal: An incomplete fade from Lucas Johnson to Jesse Matthews.
  • 2nd & Goal: A one-yard loss by tailback Greg Bell.
  • 3rd & Goal: A pass to a wide-open Matthews that was behind him (which would’ve likely resulted in a touchdown if it was accurately thrown).
  • 4th & Goal: Johnson throws it away out-of-bounds after nearly getting sacked.

Nevada’s defense was spectacular in the second half. San Diego State (3-2) totaled 21 points, 252 yards and 13 first downs in the first half, but failed to score in the second half; SDSU accumulated just 41 yards (on 32 plays), three first downs and five three-and-outs (on seven drives).

The dominant second-half showing was courtesy of defensive lineman Dom Peterson. Peterson, a preseason All-Mountain West first team honoree, recorded two sacks and three tackles-for-loss. He now has 4.0 sacks on the season and 16.0 for his career — 0.5 away from cracking into the program’s Top-10 for most career sacks.

Saturday marks Nevada’s third straight victory over the Aztecs. Nevada is 5-0 for the first time since 2010, when it won its first six games. The Wolf Pack have started 5-0 only eight times in program history. San Diego State drops to 3-2 on the year.

The Wolf Pack totaled 376 total yards against the Aztecs, the nation’s second-ranked defense (242.8 ypg) entering Saturday. They snapped SDSU’s streak of five straight games holding opponents to 300 or fewer yards.

Carson Strong went 31-for-46 (67.4 percent) for 288 passing yards with two touchdowns and one interception. It snapped a string of six consecutive 300-yard performances — one short of tying David Vargas’ record set in 1993.

Toa Taua registered 13 carries for 52 yards. Devonte Lee totaled 25 yards on seven carries. Both tailbacks had three catches apiece for 37 combined yards.

Justin Lockhart and Cole Turner totaled career-highs in the reception department — each hauling in a team-high eight apiece. Turner totaled 50 receiving yards and Lockhart had 45 yards.

Doubs hauled-in five receptions for a game-high 133 yards, including a 50-yard receiving touchdown. He has recorded 100-yard performances in each of the five games. He has 36 catches for 778 yards and nine touchdowns.

Romeo Doubs’ 2020 statistics

Current Statistics (thru 5 games) Prorated over 8 games Prorated over 12 games
Current Statistics (thru 5 games) Prorated over 8 games Prorated over 12 games
Receptions 36 57 86
Receiving yards 778 1,245 1,867
Touchdowns 9 14 22

Nevada placekicker Brandon Talton finished 4-for-5 on the evening. His string of 18 consecutive made field goals was snapped after missing a 51-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.

Aztecs quarterback Lucas Johnson started ahead of Carson Baker, who started the previous four games. Johnson completed 14-of-24 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown. The dual threat talent added 29 rushing yards on five carries with a score.

Baker still saw snaps due to a leg injury. The two signal callers alternated the final five drives. Baker attempted just one pass without a completion with five rushing yards.

The conference’s leading rusher Greg Bell totaled 28 yards on nine carries with a rushing touchdown. Chance Bell (unrelated to Greg) totaled 42 yards on 11 carries.

The Aztecs, who was fourth in the FBS in rushing (280.3 ypg) entering Saturday, totaled just 109 rushing yards on 35 carries— their second lowest rushing output of the season.

Matthews had a team-high five receptions for 80 yards. Elijah Kothe had 39 yards on two receptions, while BJ Busbee added 24 yards on two receptions.

Strong’s touchdown pass to Cole Turner was overturned, forcing a 31-yard field goal by Talton on their second drive. San Diego State quickly responded, as Johnson scampered untouched for a 35-yard score on the Aztecs’ second drive to go ahead 7-3.

A seven-yard connection from Johnson to Kobe Smith put San Diego State ahead 14-6 with 14:57 remaining in the second quarter. Nevada marched down to SDSU’s five-yard-line, but couldn’t capitalize for six on its third consecutive red zone appearance. Talton’s 22-yard field goal cut the lead to 14-9.

The Pack finally eclipsed the endzone later in the quarter. After several detrimental Aztec penalties, Strong connected with Turner for a two-yard fade route in the back of the endzone.

The Aztecs reverted back to their traditional way of success at the end of the first half. They drove 64 yards without completing a pass, capped-off by a two-yard rushing score by Greg Bell to reclaim the 21-16 lead.

San Diego State entered halftime with 252 yards — 158 via the pass — compared to Nevada’s 236 total yards, despite Nevada holding the time-of-possession advantage (19:08 to 10:52).

The Wolf Pack offense struck first in the second-half. After Taua fought for a first down on a fourth-and-one at midfield, Strong launched a 50-yard pass to Doubs for a touchdown. The dynamic duo has connected on seven plays of 50-plus yards this season.

Nevada out-gained the Aztecs 105-to-7 in the third quarter and forced four three-and-outs defensively.

Penalties stalled Nevada’s fifth red zone appearance, forcing another field goal — this time from 27 yards out to extend Nevada’s advantage to 26-21. Talton missed wide-right from 51 yards with 5:02 remaining. SDSU had multiple chances to close it out in the end, but could not capitalize.

Up next:

The Wolf Pack travel to islands to face Hawai’i at 8 p.m. PST on Nevada Sports Net. It will be Nevada’s first game out of the state of Nevada.

San Diego State travels to Fresno State for the second-of-three straight road games. The game will be at 6 p.m. PST on Fox Sports 1.

Nevada Athletics Department