Aztecs offense shut down by previously winless Wolfpack

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

Nevada (1-6,1-2) entered the game on a 16-game losing streak and a 13.5 road underdog against San Diego State (3-5, 1-3). They scored six points and committed ten penalties (for 58 yards) in the game. 

The losing streak is over, defeating the Aztecs 6-0 in arguably one of the ugliest offensive games in recent memory. 

“Obviously, pretty disappointed in our performance,” said SDSU head coach Brady Hoke postgame. “Not what we expected … we got to play better in all facets.”

The two defenses allowed 955.4 total yards per game combined prior to this game, but the two offenses were only able to muster 446 yards combined. Neither QB passed for over 100 yards. 

The Aztecs head into their second and final bye week with a lot of questions about the state of the program. Their first four losses of the season came to teams that were at least seven-point favorites against them. The loss against Nevada is the polar opposite, considering the circumstances.  

Credit: PJ Panebianco/ EVT Sports

Not only was Nevada’s defense historically poor, but they were the worst in FBS in yards allowed (510pg) and second-to-worst in points allowed (39.5) but shut out the Aztecs.

“I can’t explain it, obviously,” said Hoke about the offense’s struggles against the worst statistical defense in the country. “They played better than we did it; that’s part of it.”

When asked later by a reporter if it surprised him that the team couldn’t score against a defense that allowed 40 points per game, Hoke replied, “Things don’t surprise me sometimes in a football game.”

Nevada’s defense was one of the worst 3rd down defenses in the country, allowing 50% conversions on the season. The Aztecs did not convert a 3rd down in ten attempts. They were only one for three on fourth-down attempts. 

“Completely unacceptable,” said LG Cade Bennett postgame when asked about the offense’s performance. “We have to be better. I don’t think we underestimated these guys … We had a good game plan. I think we prepared, but clearly that didn’t show.” 

Jalen Mayden (6/14, 47 yards) led the Aztecs on a final drive for what could have been the game-winning score but fumbled the ball inside the Nevada 25 when trying to scramble away from a pass rush. Jonathan Maldonado recovered the fumble, allowing the Wolfpack to run out the clock. 

The Wolfpack scored the only points in the game on 39-yd and 37-yd field goals by Brandon Talton. The first field goal (Talton’s 73rd) made him Nevada’s all-time field goal leader. 

The Aztecs’ defense set up their offense with five consecutive drives (the last four in the first half and the first in the second) with the following excellent field position: 

Own 42 

Wolfpack 49

Wolfpack 49 

Wolfpack 44 

Own 48 

They were unable to score points on any of those drives. 

Credit: PJ Panebianco/ EVT Sports

The first drive ended on a missed 34-yard field goal by Jack Browning. The second drive started promising, as Mayden threw to Josh Nicholson, who ran upfield and gained 14 yards to the 35. But a flag was thrown against Brionne Penny for pass interference for blocking downfield before the pass was thrown. The 15-yard penalty, plus a sack by Mackavelli Maoltumau, derailed the Aztecs’ drive. 

The third drive saw a punt from the Nevada 45 after the offense only picked up four yards on the first three plays.  

The last two drives failed on fourth down attempts, on a Mayden QB sneak attempt that failed for the second straight week, and on a Mayden incomplete pass to Brionne Penny. 

“We have to stay together, first and foremost, as a unit,” Bennett echoed when asked about rebounding from this game. “Watch that tape over and over again, figure out what we did wrong, and not let those mistakes happen.” 

Talton missed two field goals from 47 yards out in the second half that kept it a one-score game throughout. 

Brendon Lewis completed 9 of 22 passes for 98 yards and rushed for 40. Sean Dollars led Nevada with 52 rushing yards. 

Mayden led the Aztecs once again with 52 rushing yards. Lucky Sutton carried 12 times for 48 yards. 

Hoke stated postgame had a thought about replacing Mayden at QB, but given the score, he had confidence in him to be able to lead them to a win. 

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In the first minute of the fourth quarter, a perfect deep pass from Mayden to Mekhi Shaw on 3rd and 6 was dropped by the Aztecs’ best receiver, leading to a punt from midfield.

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

Redshirt freshman Josh Hunter started at warrior safety in place of Davaughn Celestine and Deshawn McCuin. Celestine had started most of the season at field warrior but gave way to McCuin last week, who, after returning an interception for a touchdown, sustained a head injury late in the game and was not available tonight. It was Hunter’s first career start.

Sophomore Dom Oliver collected his first career sack, taking Lewis down in the second quarter. Dez Malone added a sack on a big third down play that knocked Nevada out of field goal range. Zyrus Fiaseu wrangled the third sack for the team, which was more than the team collected in the past four games total (two).

After collecting four turnovers last week against Hawai’i, the defense did not force any this week. Both Cedarious Barfield and Hoke spoke postgame about the importance of turnovers and their impact on winning or losing a game. 

Tommy Mirabella replaced Dean Abdullah at RG for the Aztecs in the second half. 

Jamaal Bell’s 14-yard kickoff return to start the second half moved him into second place all-time at Nevada with 1,522 kick-return yards, passing Elijah Mitchell.  

The announced attendance at Snapdragon Stadium was 27,122. 

After the bye week, the Aztecs will host the Utah State Aggies on Saturday, November 4th. Kickoff time and which Fox channel will broadcast the game will be announced on Sunday.

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