Utah State football skid continues in 34-9 loss to Nevada

Utah State quarterback Jason Shelley (15) stretches out for more yards after being tripped up during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nevada on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)

The Utah State football team scored in the first quarter for the first time all season. But it was the last time in the game that the Aggies scored.

The Aggies (0-3) gave up 34 unanswered points in a 34-9 loss to the Nevada Wolf Pack (3-0) on Thursday at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev. It’s the first time USU has gone 0-3 to start a season since 2008.

The three-game losing streak has the Aggies looking for answers with only five games remaining in their season.

“The energy is just down right now,” junior wide receiver Deven Thompkins said. “We have to figure out what the problem is, why we keep on losing these games.”

Utah State got outplayed on both sides of the ball for the third consecutive game. Receivers dropped passes. Defenders missed tackles. The offense didn’t move the ball up the field much.

Meanwhile, Wolf Pack sophomore quarterback Carson Strong threw for 411 yards and three touchdowns. Romeo Doubs caught all three TD passes and finished with 137 receiving yards.

Nevada was also able to get itself out of trouble on multiple occasions. It went 4 of 5 on fourth downs and 6 of 16 on third downs.

“It’s tough when you lose those fourth downs,” Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. “But I still sensed the core of the defense fought the whole game.”

While the Aggies gave up 13 points in the second half, six of those came off field goals. Andersen felt that was an indication of the defense’s continued effort throughout the game.

One of the bright spots of defense for the Aggies was AJ Vongphachanh, who amassed 17 tackles and a sack.

“It was just me hustling to the ball trying to make plays,” Vongphachanh said humbly.

USU’s only scoring drive happened in the first quarter. Justin McGriff caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Jason Shelley in a drive that was the one of the best offensive sequences of the season for the team.

Utah State's Justn McGriff (10) catches a touchdown pass from Jason Shelley in front of Nevada's AJ King (25) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)

Vongphachanh forced a safety by the Wolf Pack, which gave them a 2-0 lead early in the game. Utah State’s touchdown a few minutes later gave it a 9-0 advantage.

But other than that, the Aggies couldn’t buy a point and couldn’t even get into field goal range. Utah State punted 10 times and turned the ball over on downs once.

Shelley finished the game with a touchdown pass and 96 passing yards on 15-of-27 passing. The junior also ran for 34 yards, the most of any USU rusher.

Nevada put up 542 yards of total offense, while Utah State tallied only 210. In the second quarter, when the Wolf Pack broke open the game, they possessed the ball for 11 minutes and 18 seconds.

“The locker room is somber,” Andersen said. “The locker room is challenging. But the locker room is ready to come back and fight. I think they understand where they are and what we have to be able to keep grinding to get better.”