SALT LAKE CITY — For 11 minutes, the Utah State Aggies looked like they had solved some of the things that had plagued them over their first two games of the season.
They got pressure on the opposing quarterback — even getting an early safety when AJ Vongphachanh got to Nevada quarterback Carson Strong in the end zone. And Jason Shelley showed off his legs, totaling 40 yards rushing on an early touchdown drive.
By the end, though, those promising moments turned out all to be a mirage. Nevada scored 34 unanswered points to roll right by the Aggies 34-9 Thursday night in Reno, Nevada.
So what happened?
“If I knew I would tell you, man,” wideout Deven Thompkins said. “It’s just a momentum thing you know? We started off good — the defense got us some good stops, we got the safety, put some points on the board after that. But, I mean, it’s just about consistency. We’re just not really consistent.”
The Aggies have been consistent in one thing: they have yet to be competitive in a game.
Utah State now lost their three games by an average of 28.3 points — as head coach Gary Andersen has said, it’s been “tough sledding.”
And this one may have been the worst. After the strong start, nothing went right for the Aggies. On their lone touchdown drive, which ended with Shelley finding Justin McGriff for a 4-yard touchdown, the Aggies had 61 total yards. By the end, they finished with 210 yards.
Shelley finished 15-of-27 for 96 yards — he has yet to top 100 yards passing in his first three games as an Aggie — and 34 yards rushing. The Utah transfer was replaced by Andrew Peasley for a brief spell in the second half, but he failed to spark the offense, going 1-of-7 for just 5 yards.
“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of things you can look at and point out and say this and that and the other thing, but … you have to have explosive plays on the offensive side football,” Andersen said. “And we’re having a heck of a time trying to be able to get that done.”
Nevada, however, did not.
While the Aggies were stuck in the mud, the Wolf Pack made things look real easy. Strong was 36-of-52 for 411 yards and three touchdowns — all three of which went to his favorite target: Romeo Doubs. Doubs finished with seven catches for 137 yards and the three scores.
“(Strong’s) the driving force, and obviously some very skillful receivers,” Andersen said. “No. 7 (Doubs) is — he’s as good as maybe I’ve ever coached against. He’s a special kid.”
In the first quarter, Strong lofted a deep pass to the end zone that Doubs went up high and got. That long touchdown came on third down — and getting off the field was a struggle for the Aggies. Nevada went 4-for-5 on fourth down, alone, including converting on a fourth-and-goal in the first quarter on a Strong and Doub’s second touchdown connection.
“They went for fourth downs a few times on us — it’s the confidence that they have within their football team right now to go ahead and do that,” Andersen said.
Before the half was over, Doubs was celebrating his third touchdown — this one a 54-yard strike — as Nevada turned an early deficit into a big lead at the break.
“On defense, you can’t give up those big explosive plays or at least as many as we did tonight,” Andersen said. “Or you’re gonna have trouble winning a football game. That’s what good teams do.”
After three games, the Aggies are far from a good football team.