Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs makes a touchdown reception behind California cornerback Collin Gamble in the second quarter Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
The Nevada Wolf Pack didn’t have to play its best football to beat a Power Five team on the road Saturday night.
“We can play so much better,” Nevada head coach Jay Norvell said after a 22-17 victory over the California Golden Bears in Berkeley, Calif. “I don’t think there’s any doubt of that.”
The Wolf Pack, now 4-1 in season openers under Norvell, remained on top of the Nevada Appeal Mountain West football rankings. The Utah State Aggies jumped from No. 10 to No. 5 by also beating a Pac-12 team on the road, stunning Washington State on Saturday night, 26-23.
Utah State was a 17-point underdog at Pullman, Wash., while Nevada was a three-point underdog. The Wolf Pack, though, found itself down 14-0 to the Golden Bears after one quarter.
“That’s one of the better defenses we’ll see all season but we can be so much better,” Norvell said.
The Boise State Broncos lost at Central Florida 36-31 but still jumped over San Jose State to No. 2 in this week’s rankings. The Broncos jumped out to a 21-0 lead against one of the better Group of Five teams in the nation on the road in Orlando, Fla., and still led 31-30 on a 7-yard touchdown catch by Khalil Shakir with eight minutes to play.
“It’s heartbreaking we didn’t finish,” said Andy Avalos, who was making his Boise State head coaching debut. “But we are excited about who we can become and who we can grow into from here.”
No. 3 San Diego State fell behind 10-0 at halftime to New Mexico State before taking control in the second half for a 28-10 victory. The Aztecs, playing in front of just 10,116 fans at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., used three long touchdown runs by Jordon Brookshire (18 yards), Jordan Byrd (43) and Greg Bell (23) and a 25-yard interception return by linebacker Andrew Aleki for another touchdown to pull out the victory.
“We made too many mistakes,” Aztecs head coach Brady Hoke said. “We had too many penalties and we just did not have enough discipline in all areas.”
San Jose State fell to No. 4 with a 30-7 loss at USC in front of a crowd of 54,398 in Los Angeles. The Spartans, though, trailed just 13-7 early in the fourth quarter.
“We can fix the stuff we don’t think is right in the first couple games and get ready to go on a magical mystery tour,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said. “That’s where my head is now.”
“We know what we need to work on for the long mission ahead now,” said San Jose State running back Tyler Nevens, who scored from two yards out in the third quarter for the Spartans’ only touchdown.
No. 5 Utah State pulled off the biggest upset of the week for the Mountain West after trailing Washington State 23-11 with 12 minutes to play. A 7-yard scoring pass by Logan Bonner to Deven Thompkins with 13 seconds to play won the game.
“I’m really proud of the guys, but not surprised,” said first-year Utah State head coach Blake Anderson. “We knew if we could trust the plan and keep it close, our conditioning and the way we operate and prepare would lead us to a win and that is exactly what you saw.”
Utah State went 1-5 last year, firing head coach Gary Andersen midway through the year.
“This is a memory that they (the players) will never forget and something I’ll never forget but hopefully it is just the first step forward,” Anderson said.
No. 6 Hawaii rushed for 268 yards in holding off Portland State 49-35 while No. 7 Fresno State put a scare into Oregon before losing 31-24 in Eugene, Ore., in front of 43,276 fans. Fresno State, though, had more first downs (23-20) and yards (373-358).
No. 8 Air Force ran for 370 yards and five touchdowns in whipping Lafayette 35-14 in Colorado Springs while No. 9 Wyoming avoided a stunning upset by beating Montana State 19-16 in Laramie, Wyo. Montana State led 16-12 until Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers found Treyton Welch for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 47 seconds to play.
No. 10 New Mexico beat Houston Baptist 27-17 in Albuquerque. The Lobos held Houston Baptist to minus-9 rushing yards on 23 carries.
No. 11 Colorado State lost to South Dakota State 42-23 at home in front of 32,327 fans. UNLV also lost at home, 35-33 in two overtimes, to Eastern Washington in front of 21,970 at Allegiant Stadium.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West football rankings for the week of Sept. 6:
1. NEVADA (1-0). Last week: Nevada 22, California 17. This week: Idaho State at Nevada, Saturday.
2. BOISE STATE (0-1). Last week: Central Florida 36, Boise State 31. This week: UTEP at Boise State, Friday.
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (1-0). Last week: San Diego State 28, New Mexico State 10. This week: San Diego State at Arizona, Saturday.
4. SAN JOSE STATE (1-1). Last week: USC 30, San Jose State 7. This week: Idle. Next game: San Jose State at Hawaii, Sept. 18.
5. UTAH STATE (1-0). Last week: Utah State 26, Washington State 23. This week: North Dakota at Utah State, Friday.
6. HAWAII (1-1). Last week: Hawaii 49, Portland State 35. This week: Hawaii at Oregon State, Saturday.
7. FRESNO STATE (1-1). Last week: Oregon 31, Fresno State 24. This week: Cal Poly at Fresno State, Saturday.
8. AIR FORCE (1-0). Last week: Air Force 35, Lafayette 14. This week: Air Force at Navy, Saturday.
9. WYOMING (1-0). Last week: Wyoming 19, Montana State 16. This week: Wyoming at Northern Illinois, Saturday.
10. NEW MEXICO (1-0). Last week: New Mexico 27, Houston Baptist 17. This week: New Mexico State at New Mexico, Saturday.
11. COLORADO STATE (0-1). Last week: South Dakota State 42, Colorado State 23. This week: Vanderbilt at Colorado State, Saturday.
12. UNLV (0-1). Last week: Eastern Washington 35, UNLV 33 (2 OT). This week: UNLV at Arizona State, Saturday.