Nevada football faces Utah State on the road Saturday, can secure second place in Mountain Division with win
Wolf Pack Game Day
Nevada (6-4, 4-2) at Utah State (5-5, 4-3)
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Maverik Stadium
TV: ESPN 3 / Radio: 94.5 FM, 630 AM
Brian Polian wants everyone to know once again that his Nevada Wolf Pack will take on a team that is better than its record would indicate.
“I can’t explain the 5-5,” said the Wolf Pack coach, referring to the Utah State Aggies’ record. “They’re better than that.”
The Aggies (5-5, 4-3), which will host the Wolf Pack (6-4, 4-2) Saturday afternoon, Nov. 21, at 12:30 p.m. in Logan, Utah, have indeed at times looked better than a .500 record would suggest. They destroyed Boise State (52-26), Wyoming (58-27), Colorado State (33-18) and Fresno State (56-14). But the roller-coaster Aggies have also lost three of their last four games to fall to fourth place in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West.
“They’ve been a little inconsistent lately,” Polian said.
The Wolf Pack has been very consistent lately, winning its last three games. The Pack closed out its home schedule last Saturday with an emotional 37-34 overtime win over San Jose State and now must close out the season away from Mackay Stadium with games at Utah State and San Diego State (Nov. 28). Any Wolf Pack loss or San Diego State victory over the last two weeks will give the Aztecs the West Division title.
“It’s a challenge that we’re ready for,” Wolf Pack running back Don Jackson said. “I love playing on the road. It’s the ‘us against the world’ factor and that plays to our advantage.”
Utah State and Nevada have been in the same conference for 18 of the last 24 years. They were both in the Big West from 1992-1999, the WAC from 2005-11 and the Mountain West since 2013. The Wolf Pack owns a 17-5 record against the Aggies in the 111-year-old rivalry (12-3 since 1992) and is also 9-3 in Logan. Utah State, though, has the nation’s third-longest winning streak at home at 13 games.
“We don’t game plan any less, we don’t practice any less and our preparation isn’t any less when we go on the road,” Utah State head coach Matt Wells said.
Utah State features a big-play offense that centers around quarterback Kent Myers and wide receiver Hunter Sharp. Myers has passed for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns and has rushed for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Sharp has caught 46 passes for 595 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Aggies, though, have struggled to run the ball lately. Their leading rusher, Devante Mays, has just 655 yards this year.
The Wolf Pack, by comparison, has two running backs that could go over 1,000 yards for the season on Saturday. James Butler is at 994 yards and Jackson is at 901.
“When we run the ball well we win games,” Jackson said. “If we can be the heartbeat of the offense, most of the time we win that game.”
In addition to creating big plays on offense, the Aggies’ success this year also has hinged on big plays on defense. In their signature win this year over Boise State they forced eight turnovers. Since that game, however, the Aggies have forced just one turnover over the last four games (losing three of the games).
The Wolf Pack, with two regular season games, a likely bowl game and a possible Mountain West title game remaining, is hoping to become just the second team in school history to finish a season with a winning streak of six games or longer. The 2010 team won its last seven in a row. No other Pack team won more than five in a row to close out a season.