Running the exact same play that allowed Escobar the 21-yard score, San Diego State tight end Adam Roberts slipped past the Wolf Pack secondary and into the left flat of the end zone. With no one near him, Aztec backup quarterback Adam Dingwell feathered a pass to him for the two-point conversion and 39-38 come-from-behind victory.
“It was actually the same play they ran to score the touchdown,” Nevada linebacker Albert Rosette said. “We just didn’t cover it two times in a row. That’s all I can really say. It was the exact same play they ran twice in a row and we didn’t cover it, twice in a row… We weren’t executing and maybe we got a little complacent as a defense. Guys were just out of position and a step too late, a second too late. That adds up.”
The loss dropped Nevada to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Mountain West, with both losses coming by a point each.
“It’s a tough loss,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “They’re obviously a good football team. We had our opportunities. It finally caught up with us. Keep people in the game and having the chance to put them away and not doing it and our defense just didn’t play well the second half. You have to make plays and we didn’t make plays.”
With the two-highest scoring football teams in the Mountain West Conference facing off in front of 22,242 at Mackay Stadium, many thought the game between Nevada and San Diego State would be a shootout. While the first half saw the squads get off to a slow start, both warmed up in the second half to deliver as expected.
After a half of play left the Wolf Pack leading San Diego State 10-6, each of the high-powered offenses finally got things going in the second half as the Aztecs found a way to edge Nevada for the overtime win.
With the scoreboard reading 31-28 in favor of the Silver and Blue, the Aztecs denied Nevada’s attempt to put the game away and forced a punt. Starting at their own 20-yard line with 50 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, the tasked looked daunting for San Diego State.
“I really felt they weren’t going to go the distance,” Ault said about possibly going for it on fourth down instead of punting. “There wasn’t that much time left. They had no timeouts. We made them burn their timeouts. It was too long. I wasn’t thinking about it all.”
The visitors did not need timeouts or good field position though. Marching down the field to Nevada’s 14-yard line, the Aztecs sent the game into overtime with a 35-yard field goal by Chance Marden as time expired.
“You can’t keep playing week in and week out until the fourth quarter with two minutes left,” Ault said. “We had our chances defensively time in and time out in that fourth quarter to stop them.”
Unfortunately for Silver and Blue faithful, the defensive woes for the Pack remained into the overtime period as the Aztecs snuck away with the victory. After San Diego State totaled 157 yards, including 45 passing, through three quarters the Aztecs exploded for 192 yards, 152 of which came in the air, in the fourth quarter and OT alone.
In the first half, Nevada got on the board first with a 36-yard field goal by Allen Hardison with just over a minute left in the first quarter. San Diego State countered with a pair of its own field goals as Chance Marden hit kicks of 39 and 46 yards which left the Aztecs ahead 6-3 at the 4:22 mark of the second quarter. The Wolf Pack took the lead back just before the intermission as receiver Aaron Bradley grabbed a 10-yard TD pass from Cody Fajardo to result in the 10-6 halftime score.
To start the second half, both offensive engines found a spark.
Following a key 22-yard gain by running back Stefphon Jefferson down to the Aztecs’ 8-yard line, Nevada found the end zone for just its second time of the night as Fajardo faked a pitch on an option-run and kept the ball for a 5-yard touchdown to increase the Wolf Pack lead to 17-6 with 8:43 to play in the third quarter.
San Diego State answered on its next drive, punching in its first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard dive from Walter Kazee, followed by a two-point conversion that left the scoreboard reading 17-14 with 3:39 left in the third.
Not wanting to give the Aztecs an opportunity to retake the lead, Nevada drove down the field on its next possession. Standing just outside the end zone at the 3-yard line, Fajardo dropped back and lofted a jump ball into the left corner of the end zone that receiver Brandon Wimberly leapt up and snatched for his first score since Christmas Eve of 2009. Wimberly’s first TD in a span of 1,031 days put the Wolf Pack back ahead by double digits, 24-14 at the 1:15 mark of the third quarter.
Refusing to give in, SDSU answered on its ensuing possession, bringing the game back to a one-score contest. After the Aztecs converted on a 3rd-and-10 from Nevada’s 31-yard line, the visitors finished off the drive on a swing pass from quarterback Dingwell to receiver Dominique Sandifer that he took and dove over the pylon for a 19-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-21 with 11:57 on the clock.
The Pack punched back with a lengthy drive that was capped by a 1-yard plunge from Jefferson to push the lead to 31-21 with 7:46 remaining in the game, but the Aztecs again had an answer for Nevada.
After driving into Nevada territory, the Aztecs faced a 3rd-and-10 inside the red zone. That did little to deter San Diego State as receiver Colin Lockett took a dump pass 14 yards down to the 4-yard line to set up a 4-yard TD catch by Escobar, bringing the Aztecs within a field goal of tying the game at 31-28 with 3:45 to play.
Fajardo finished the night 29-of-40 passing for 304 yards and three scores. Wimberly was on the receiving end of two of those TDs, totaling 132 yards on 10 receptions. Jefferson led the way on the ground as he rushed for 108 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown.
Nevada visits Air Force Friday with kickoff set for 5 p.m.