Logan • By now, football teams should know not to direct their kickoffs toward Utah State University’s Savon Scarver. That goes double for teams from Nevada.
Still, the junior out of Centennial High in Las Vegas caught the Wolf Pack off guard Saturday night at Maverik Stadium. Twelve seconds after the Nevada put its first points on the scoreboard thanks to the sure foot of freshman Brandon Talton, Scarver had his hands up in the opposite end zone. His 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the fifth of his career — an Aggies record.
That score held up as the difference in USU’s 36-10 Mountain West Conference win over the Wolf Pack. It was the Aggies’ 10th straight home victory and it pulled USU (4-2) to the top of the MWC Mountain Division standings alongside Boise State (6-1), which lost a nonconference game at BYU late Saturday. Both are a perfect 3-0 in the MWC. Nevada dropped to 4-3, 1-2 in the MWC, putting it no better than second in the West Division.
Scarver recorded his first career kickoff return for a touchdown as a freshman in the Aggies’ loss to New Mexico State in the Arizona Bowl. The speedy 5-foot-11, 180 pounder added two last year and added another in the first quarter of USU’s conference opener against Colorado State on Sept. 28. His effort Saturday helped him eclipse Kevin Robinson, who had four between 2004-07. Three of those came in 2007, an Aggies season record.
“He has such a natural skill set to see the field setting up in front of him,” USU coach Gary Andersen said of Scarver. “He has tremendous speed, unbelievable athletic ability, God-given ability. He’s special. And on kickoff returns, every time he catches it, you’ve got to watch out.”
UTAH STATE 36, NEVADA 10
• Utah State’s defense held Nevada scoreless for 49:57, allowing a score on Nevada’s second possession and its final possession
• The Aggies held the Wolf Pack to just three drives of more than three plays
• Junior Savon Scarver sets Aggies record with his fifth career kickoff return for a touchdown
Scarver’s run kick-started a stellar outing for Utah State’s special teams. Later in the first quarter, sophomore Devan Thompkins placed the tips of his toes inside the goal line on an Aggies punt, downing it at the 1-yard line. Nevada running back Toa Taua couldn’t couldn’t get onto the green before Justus Te’i converged on him, giving USU its first safety since 2015.
Senior kicker Dominik Eberle made two of his three field goal attempts — completing ones of 29 and 32 yards and missing one of 47 — giving him just two misses in 16 attempts this season. He also improved to a perfect 145 for 145 for his career in points after touchdown. His counterpart, Nevada freshman Talton, entered the game with no misses in 12 attempts — one of just two players in the country to not have a miss in at least 10 attempts. He made it 13 of 13 with a 23-yarder on the Wolf Pack’s second possession of the game. But in an indication of all that was not going Nevada’s way, he saw his streak broken late in the third quarter when he missed a 51-yarder low and to the right.
Jordan Love showed his Heisman Trophy-candidate form in a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Caleb Repp late in the second quarter to put the Aggies up 19-3. That was a a bright spot for an offense that generally struggled, despite the score. Love finished the game 13 of 31 for 169 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times and intercepted once.
The Aggies turned to Jaylen Warren and Gerold Bright to carry the load on the ground. Warren, a junior out of East High in Salt Lake City, managed 73 yards on 12 carries. Bright finished with 126 yards on 15 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown with 11:27 left in the game to put the Aggies up 29-3.
“I’ve been watching Barry Sanders film for two weeks,” Bright said. “I was like what would Barry do? Barry’s not going to get caught.”
While David Woodward continued to dominate in a way that has put him in the running for the Lott Impact Trophy, sophomore cornerback Andre Grayson had the Wolf Pack’s number. On one set of downs alone, Grayson held a Nevada back to a 2-yard gain, then followed that up by sacking quarterback Malik Henry and forcing a fumble. Nevada recovered the ball but never did recover from the pressure Grayson brought all game. His damage included two forced fumbles, three broken up passes, the sack and eight solo tackles, two of which were for a loss.
“There were no nerves," Grayson said. "We knew what we were going to do. I knew what I was going to do, and we just executed. ”
Defensive end Tipa Galeai also sacked Henry, who was making his second career start for Nevada, and Shaq Bond and Kevin Meitzenheimer intercepted him. Meitzenheimer’s interception set up a 9-yard touchdown run for Bright in the final score of the game. Henry finished 17 of 38 for 213 yards and no touchdowns. The Wolf Pack also didn’t do themselves any favors with 13 penalties for 110 yards. USU was flagged six times for 52 yards.
The Aggies march into their second of six MWC games in seven weeks next Saturday when they play Air Force in Colorado. That game, also an 8:15 p.m. kickoff, will be broadcast on ESPN2. The Falcons (4-2, 2-1), who were up on Hawaii late Saturday, are currently No. 3 in the Mountain standings.