Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Carson Strong passed for 354 yards and five touchdowns in a 37-26 win over Fresno State last Saturday night at Mackay Stadium.
But it wasn’t good enough for the sophomore.
“It had to be the most frustrating football game I’ve ever been a part of in my whole life,” Strong said. “We left a lot of plays out on the field.”
Strong, who leads the Mountain West with 2,327 yards and 21 touchdowns, tossed three scoring passes to freshman Tory Horton and two to Cole Turner as the Wolf Pack (6-1) held onto its No. 2 ranking in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West rankings.
“He stood next to me on the sidelines late in the game and told me, ‘We could have thrown for 600 yards tonight if I had been sharper,’” Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell said.
The Wolf Pack, which will meet No. 3 San Jose State (5-0) this Friday night at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium with a spot in the Dec. 19 Mountain West title game on the line, needed each of Strong’s five touchdowns and 354 yards to beat No. 6 Fresno State (3-2).
Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener torched the Nevada defense for 485 yards and two touchdowns, completing 41-of-65 passes.
“It was crazy, to say the least,” said Strong, who also completed seven passes to Romeo Doubs for 97 yards after connecting with the wide receiver just once in a 24-21 loss at Hawaii the previous week.
“Carson had a couple miscues, which is unlike him,” Norvell said. “He missed some throws. We actually left a lot of plays on the field.”
Horton, who had just seven catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns all season going into Saturday night, had five catches for 148 yards and three scores against Fresno State.
“I dreamed about this,” the Fresno native said. “I had this planned out the day I committed (to Nevada) and never receiving (a scholarship) offer from (Fresno State).”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Horton beat the Bulldogs down the middle on his first touchdown (17 yards) and down the left sideline on his second (85 yards) and third (32 yards) scores.
“I guess they didn’t think he was fast enough,” Norvell said. “He looked fast enough on those deep balls. We love him. He reminds me so much of Romeo when Romeo was a freshman.”
“That (not getting an offer from Fresno State) just motivated me even more,” said Horton, whose brother Tyler was a former All-Mountain West cornerback at Boise State. “I just showed them the speed I have.”
Fresno State, playing its first game in three weeks, piled up 30 first downs and 599 yards on the Wolf Pack defense. Bulldogs running back Ronnie Rivers rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries and caught nine passes for 38 yards despite missing most of the fourth quarter with a leg injury. Rivers, though, did not score a touchdown for the first time in a dozen games.
No. 1 Boise State (4-1) did not play last week and will secure a spot in the Mountain West title game with a victory at Wyoming on Saturday as the conference’s regular season comes to a close.
San Jose State (5-0) outscored Hawaii 35-24 in Honolulu to hold on to the No. 3 spot in the rankings. The Spartans’ Tyler Nevens (152 yards) and Kairee Robinson (111 yards) each rushed for over 100 yards. No. 5 Hawaii (3-4) got 238 yards passing and two touchdowns from Chevan Cordeiro.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at San Jose State but Santa Clara (Calif.) County has prohibited athletic contests because of COVID-19 precautions. This Friday’s game against Nevada was also supposed to be played in San Jose but has been moved to Las Vegas.
This will be the Wolf Pack’s third game in Las Vegas this season (they beat UNLV and New Mexico) and seventh (out of eight) in the state of Nevada.
No. 4 San Diego State (4-3) used a pair of special teams touchdowns to turn back No. 8 Colorado State (1-3), 29-17.
Jordan Byrd returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and B.J. Busbee returned a punt 90 yards for a score. Neither team performed well on offense as Colorado State outgained the Aztecs, 265-247.
“In the second half we played Aztec defense,” San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke said. “We knew this (Colorado State) was a team that wants to run the ball down your throat. In the first half we gave up 108 yards rushing and that’s not good enough for San Diego State.”
Colorado State ran for 43 yards in the second half. The San Diego State offense, though, didn’t score a touchdown. The Aztecs supplemented their two special teams touchdowns with five field goals from Matt Araiza.
“I do not get too frustrated but it does irritate me,” Colorado State coach Steve Addazio said of the Aztecs’ long kickoff and punt returns. “If I am not out there I cannot control what is going on so it is tough to stomach.”
No. 7 Air Force (3-2) rolled over No. 11 Utah State (1-5), 35-7. Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels completed 7-of-9 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. He completed his first six passes. The Falcons also rushed for 334 yards and four touchdowns on 55 carries.
“It is not what Air Force usually does,” said Utah State linebacker Nick Heninger of Daniels’ nine pass attempts. “That was an unorthodox game plan for them to pass as much as they did.”
Utah State had just 232 total yards.
“As the game went on, it was the same issues,” Utah State interim head coach Frank Maile said. “The offense lost its mojo. It was a lack of execution. The bottom line is that’s on me. I have to do a better job of preparing these guys.”
No. 10 New Mexico (1-5) beat No. 9 Wyoming (2-3), 17-16. New Mexico’s Bobby Cole rushed for 131 yards as the Lobos snapped the longest losing streak (14 games) in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The victory also broke a 20-game losing streak in Mountain West games for New Mexico.
Isaiah Chavez tossed a 44-yard touchdown pass to Cole with 6:22 to play for the victory in the game played in Las Vegas.
Wyoming did run for 283 yards on 38 carries but picked up just 12 first downs. Wyoming’s Trey Smith ran for 154 yards on 24 carries.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West football rankings:
1. BOISE STATE (4-1, 4-0): Last week: Boise State at UNLV, canceled. This week: Boise State at Wyoming, Saturday.
2. NEVADA (6-1, 6-1): Last week: Nevada 37, Fresno State 26. This week: Nevada vs. San Jose State at Las Vegas, Friday.
3. SAN JOSE STATE (5-0, 5-0): Last week: San Jose State 35, Hawaii 24. This week: Nevada vs. San Jose State at Las Vegas, Friday.
4. SAN DIEGO STATE (4-3, 4-2): Last week: San Diego State 29, Colorado State 17. This week: San Diego State at BYU, Saturday.
5. HAWAII (3-4, 3-4): Last week: San Jose State 35, Hawaii 24. This week: UNLV at Hawaii, Saturday.
6. FRESNO STATE (3-2, 3-2): Last week: Nevada 37, Fresno State 26. This week: Fresno State at New Mexico at Las Vegas, Saturday.
7. AIR FORCE (3-2, 2-2). Last week: Air Force 35, Utah State 7. Next game: Air Force at Army, Dec. 19.
8. COLORADO STATE (1-3, 1-3): Last week: San Diego State 29, Colorado State 17. This week: Utah State at Colorado State, Saturday.
9. WYOMING (2-3, 2-3): Last week: New Mexico 17, Wyoming 16. This week: Boise State at Wyoming, Saturday.
10. NEW MEXICO (1-5, 1-5): Last week: New Mexico 17, Wyoming 16. This week: Fresno State vs. New Mexico at Las Vegas, Saturday.
11. UTAH STATE (1-5, 1-5). Last week: Air Force 35, Utah State 7. This week: Utah State at Colorado State, Saturday.
12. UNLV (0-5, 0-5): Last week: Boise State at UNLV, cancelled. This week: UNLV at Hawaii, Saturday.