Another week another not so good looking game for Utah State in a 34-9 pounding. This was not the type of game Utah State was looking for and they fall to 0-3 for the first time since the WAC days in 2008. It has been more than a decade since that 0-3 start to the season as Utah State has gone through what looks like murder row in the Mountain West against three still undefeated teams in Boise State, San Diego State, and Nevada. So, let’s get right down to it.
Safety USU (Carson Strong sacked by AJ Vongphachanh for a 5 yard loss) USU 2-0
TD USU (Justin McGriff, four yard pass from Jason Shelley) USU 9-0
TD NEV (Romeo Doubs, 42 yard pass from Carson Strong) USU 9-7
TD NEV (Romeo Doubs, four yard pass from Carson Strong) NEV 14-9
TD NEV (Romeo Doubs, 54 yard pass from Carson Strong) NEV 21-9
TD NEV (Toa Taua 15 yard run) NEV 28-9
FG NEV (Brandon Talton 36 yd FG) NEV 31-9
FG NEV (Brandon Talton 26 yd FG) NEV 34-9
Total yards: NEV: 542 USU: 210
Passing yards: NEV: 421 USU: 101
Rushing yards: NEV: 121 USU: 109
Penalties: NEV: 10-74 USU: 5-52
First downs: NEV: 27 USU: 11
Third down conversions: NEV: 6-16 USU: 3-15
Time of possession: NEV: 36:44 USU: 23:16
Utah State Players of the Game
Offense: Jason Shelley may have underperformed once again and his still not passed for over 100 yards in a game but he didn’t throw an interception against Nevada and completed 15 of 27 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers don’t look that great but they were some of the most productive from the Utah State offense which is worrisome. The reason Shelley gets player of the game on offense here is because not only did he throw for 976 yards but he also had the same amount of rushing attempts as Jaylen Warren and Shelley had seven more yards than Warren.
Defense: Without a doubt player of the game on defense is linebacker AJ Vongphachanh, who had 17 total tackles (10 solo) and a tackle for loss that resulted in a safety to put the Aggies on the board first. His presence on the field was a key reason as to why the game was closer in the first half.
Three games into the season, thing don’t look good for Utah State. The defense plays well at points but then at other points inexplicitly gives up a huge chunk of yardage due to blown coverages or missed tackles. Against Boise State, San Diego State, and now Nevada, Utah State has given up a 50+ yard touchdown play. This time it was a 54 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Talton. Utah State also gave up a 60 yard run in the third quarter that led to a field goal.
One of the keys to this game was to get pressure on Carson Strong and force him into mistakes. Strong threw for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns, so clearly not enough pressure was getting to him. On the night Strong was 36-52. He had the weapons to take advantage of the Aggies defense and he did just that.
Another key to the game was keeping Romeo Doubs and Toa Taua in check. Neither of these things happened either. Romeo Doubs caught seven receptions for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Toa Taua ran for 107 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. Time of possession was included in this because Nevada was able to find success on offense and keep the Utah State defense on the field for a good amount of time. Time of possession was a key factor for Utah State being competitive in this game and the Aggies lost the possession battle by over 10 minutes once again as the offense really struggled on third down and only converted 11 first downs to Nevada’s 27 throughout the game.
One of the last key points to victory in the preview for this game was for Utah State to get creative offensively and get the receivers involved in the running game or work on some trick plays that could create momentum. Utah State only put up 210 yards of offense which shows stalling more than creativity. The Aggies receivers have been struggle in coverage this year, the most yardage any of the receivers had was posted by Devon Thompkins with 30 yards. Jason Shelley has certainly not played his best football but he will not be able to turn that around if he isn’t getting help from the receivers. Jaylen Warren has shown he is capable of being a good running back but they can’t run the ball every play, the offense needs to find the right times in the game to unleash Warren and those times won’t come if the passing game does not improve. It was mentioned in the preview for this game that Andrew Peasley could see some playing time if Shelley continued to struggle and Peasley came into the game late in the second half. I expect Peasley to see more playing time as Utah State continues to search for answers and playmakers on offense.
The Aggies return home next Saturday to face Fresno State as they look to win their first game of the season and find answers on offense and balance with time of possession and the amount of time the defense spends on the field.