The Nevada Wolf Pack (6-4, 4-2) will travel to face the Utah State Aggies (5-5, 4-3) in a Mountain West Conference showdown Saturday afternoon. Nevada has taken six of the last seven meetings but Utah State came up with a 21-17 win at home as a 1.5 point underdog on November 26, 2011 in the most recent matchup.
Nevada has won three straight after upending San Jose State 37-34 in overtime at home last Saturday. Utah State lost their second straight and third in the last four games as they were beaten 35-28 on the road by Air Force last Saturday. Kickoff from Romney Stadium in Logan, Utah is scheduled for 3:30 pm ET and can be seen on ESPN3. Utah State is currently a 15.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 54.5 points.
Nevada has strung together three straight wins and four of five as they managed to fend off San Jose State. The Wolf Pack tied the game with 36 seconds to play and then won it in overtime on Tyler Stewart’s 11 yard TD pass to Jarred Gipson. Nevada was outgained 433-409 and was edged 30:55 to 29:05 in time of possession; the Wolf Pack finished with 23 first downs while allowing 21. The game was well played on both sides as neither team committed a turnover.
The Wolf Pack has had their issues moving the ball through the air as they are 108th in passing offense (178.2 yards) while they are currently 20th in rushing offense (222.3 yards per game) this season. Nevada is scoring 27 points per game, which is tied for 74th in the nation in scoring offense, while they are currently 62nd in scoring defense by allowing 26.4 points per contest. Tyler Stewart is the starter at quarterback; he’s completed 160 of 272 passes for 1,782 yards with 15 touchdowns and five picks while rushing for 339 yards plus three scores on the ground. The run game is very effective with a pair of good backs: James Butler leads the team with 159 carries for 997 yards plus six touchdowns while Don Jackson is a battering ram with 183 carries for 897 yards and eight touchdowns. Jerico Richardson is the team leader in the passing game for Nevada with 53 catches for 560 yards and five scores; Hassan Henderson (45 grabs, team high 608 yards, 4 TD) and Wyatt Demps (24 catches, 212 yards) are secondary targets. Jarred Gipson has caught 19 passes for 247 yards and five touchdowns when he’s been targeted this season. Brent Zuzo has been near perfect on the year as he has hit all 32 extra points and 14 of 16 field goals this year with a long of 47 yards; his lone two misses has come from beyond 50 yards.
Utah State was victimized by the fact that Air Force went to the air instead of relying solely on the run game from the triple option. The Aggies were outgained 580-439, lost the first down battle 27-19 and the time of possession battle by a 37:08 to 22:52 margin in the contest. Utah State committed the game’s only turnover and watched as Air Force threw for an almost unprecedented 271 yards in the game and had their first 200 yard receiver since 1979 in the contest.
The Aggies are a middle of the pack offensive unit as they are currently 87th in the nation in passing offense with 208.3 yards per contest while they stand 81st in the nation in rushing offense by picking up 160.9 yards per contest. Utah State is tied for 61st in scoring offense as the team averages 29.7 points per game and they are 52nd in the nation in scoring defense as they allow 24.6 points per contest. With Chuckie Keeton (56 of 102, 540 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT, 76 rushing yards) out again, it’s Kent Myers (107 of 177, 1470 yards, 14 TD, 2 INT, 340 rushing yards, 3 TD) running the offense. The run game averages 4.4 yards per carry with Devante Mays leading the team with 112 carries for 655 yards and seven scores while LaJuan Hunt contributes 94 carries for 281 yards and four scores. Hunter Sharp leads the team with 46 catches for 595 yards and seven touchdowns; Devonte Robinson contributes 19 grabs for 310 yards plus a pair of scores while Hunt has grabbed 20 balls for 217 yards and a score out of the backfield. Two kickers for the Aggies have combined to hit 35 of 38 extra points and 10 of 11 field goals with a long of 51 yards.
Nevada is 4-0 ATS in their last four on fieldturf, 4-1 ATS in their last five conference games, 4-1 ATS in their last five overall, 6-2 ATS in their last eight in November and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 on the road. Utah State is 1-4 ATS in their last five in November.
The Wolf Pack has put together a stellar run in the past month or so and has reeled off three straight victories. Utah State has hit the skids a bit of late and it’s hard to figure how they are favored by double digits when they’ve dropped three of four. Nevada has momentum, a pair of tough running backs and momentum; take the points and run in this one.