Multiple members of the Nevada football team pile onto a San Diego State running back. Nevada is wearing white jerseys with grey pants.
Kyle Pulek/Nevada Athletics. Nevada’s defense piles on top of an Aztecs’ running back. Nevada’s defense allowed 113 yards on the ground against SDSU.

For the first time in Nevada football history, the Wolf Pack went on the road and defeated a nationally ranked team. Nevada beat San Diego State University, 17-13, in a defensive slugfest. 

The victory improves Nevada’s overall record to 6-4 as they become bowl eligible for the second year in a row. 

Nevada’s offense struggled throughout the night as they competed against the Aztecs’ vaunted defense. In total, Nevada only totaled 226 yards, with 197 of those yards coming through the air. 

Redshirt freshman Carson Strong threw for 147 yards through the air with single touchdown and interception. The other 50 passing yards came on a trick play from Elijah Cooks. 

Leading the receiving attack for Nevada was Brendan O’Leary-Orange and Romeo Doubs. O’Leary-Orange caught the 50-yard trick play, while Doubs caught three passes for 42 yards.

Coming into the game, SDSU’s defense was only giving up an average of 69.9 yards on the ground per game. Against Nevada, they only surrendered 29 yards. Toa Taua ran 12 times for 19 yards, while Devonte Lee picked up 13 yards on 10 attempts. Additionally, two negative rushing plays resulted in a loss of three yards over the course of the game. 

Although the offense struggled, the defense proved to be the difference-maker on the night. Nevada finished with three defenders recording at least eight tackles—Gabriel Sewell, Sam Hammond and Tyson Williams. 

Also aiding in the defensive performance was defensive back, Daniel Brown. Brown finished the game with five total tackles and an interception. 

True freshman placekicker Brandon Talton continued his impressive year. He connected on a 34-yard field goal, improving his season total to 15-17. Talton was named a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award earlier last week. The award is given to the nations best kicked at the end of the season. 

The game started slowly with five straight punts before either team put points on the board. 

Nevada struck first, off the foot of Talton following a four-play drive. SDSU respond with a field goal of their own on the ensuing drive. 

Strong put together a respectable drive following the Aztecs’ field goal but an interception in the red zone gave the ball back to SDSU. 

The Aztecs’ failed to score off the Nevada turnover, being forced to punt following a three and out. 

Nevada had one last chance at a scoring drive in the closing moments of the first half. Following Brown’s interception, the Wolf Pack set up shop at their own 23-yard line. Two ineffective offensive snaps ended any chances at a Pack score. 

At half time, the game was tied at three apiece.

As slow as the first half was, the second half opened up with fireworks from each team. Nevada and SDSU both opened the half with a touchdown drive. 

Nevada received the opening half kickoff, setting up shop at the Nevada 25-yard line. The Wolf Pack marched down the field on a methodical, 16 play drive. A 13-yard pass from Strong to Cooks capped off the drive. 

SDSU responded immediately, with a 14 play scoring drive. A three-yard run from running back Chance Bell tied the game up once again.

With 10:31 left to play in the game, Nevada capped off a five-play, 55-yard drive in the endzone. Lee ran the ball out from one yard out, putting Nevada out ahead, 17-10.

After punts from each squad, SDSU put together their final scoring drive of the night. With 3:46 left in the game, SDSU placekicker, Matt Araiza, connected from 44 yards out. The score brought the Aztecs to within four, but it proved to be too little too late. 

The Aztecs forced a three and out for Nevada, giving SDSU one last chance to take the lead. Nevada’s defense forced a turnover on downs, sealing the victory for the Wolf Pack. 

Looking ahead

Next up for Nevada, a trip to Fresno State to take on the Bulldogs. 

Fresno State is coming off a 37-35 loss to Utah State, dropping them to 4-5 on the year. Although their record shows a struggling team, Nevada can’t overlook the Bulldogs if they want a shot at the Mountain West Conference Championship. 

According to CBS Sports, the Bulldogs are currently averaging 177.8 yards on the ground per game. Nevada is surrendering an average of 143.1 rushing yards per game. 

Although the Bulldogs have a potent ground game, they will most likely attack Nevada through the air. The Wolf Pack is ranked near the bottom of the NCAA in passing defense, giving up an average of 261 yards through the air per game. 

If Nevada is to win this game—and by proxy have a chance at the MWC Championship game—they’ll have to play stout defense once again. 

Nevada takes on Fresno State on Nov. 23, following the Pack’s BYE week. 

Ryan Freeberg can be reached at rfreeberg@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.