LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Utah State is now one more victory away from becoming bowl eligible again.
Rahsul Faison rushed for 181 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries as Utah State rolled to a 41-24 win at home against Nevada on Saturday afternoon.
Faison’s rushing yards and attempts were both career highs for the junior running back, who helped the Aggies amass 292 yards on the ground. Robert Briggs Jr. added 69 yards rushing on 11 carries. Faison’s 181 yards are the most by an Aggie since Devante May gained 206 yards against Weber State in 2016.
“It was huge for us,” Faison said. “It allowed us to open up a lot of things, open up the pass game when they really start to commit to the run, and we start to hit the big runs. I just want to give a huge shoutout to my offensive line because, without them, none of this is possible. They did a great job out front today.”
Cooper Legas was 18-of-33 passing for 182 yards and three touchdowns, to go along with two interceptions, as Utah State won its second consecutive game to improve to 5-5 overall and 3-3 in Mountain West play.
Micah Davis led the Aggies, who won their fourth game in a row at home over the Wolf Pack (2-8, 2-4 MW), with a career-high six receptions for 87 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown that gave Utah State a 24-10 lead at the break.
“Obviously, taking the next step towards six, getting the win is huge,” said head coach Blake Anderson. “To be able to kind of play a normal game where we scored and played kind of from ahead and did things on both sides, I’m encouraged there. It felt like that was something we should and needed to do in this particular game, and so we were able to.”
AJ Bianco passed for 161 yards and two touchdowns for the Wolf Pack, who lost for the second straight time after winning back-to-back games against San Diego State and New Mexico, respectively.
The Aggies finished with 474 yards of total offense (292 rushing, 182 passing), while holding Nevada to 347 yards (183 rushing, 164 passing).
Utah State’s defense also found the end zone courtesy of a 63-yard interception return by defensive tackle Seni Tuiaki. Tuiaki, who added a season-high five tackles, scored for the first time in his career.
“I feel great,” Tuiaki said. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without my teammates, with the coaching that we put in to prepare for this game, and first off couldn’t have done it without the man above. For me personally, it’s a humbling experience to be honest.”
MJ Tafisi Jr. led the Aggies on defense with 12 tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss. It marked the seventh time this season, including sixth straight game, he has recorded double-digit tackles.
Utah State began the game on offense and for just the second time this season, including the first time since Week 2 against Idaho State, the Aggies scored on their opening possession. Broc Lane capped the 11-play, 75-yard drive when he caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Legas on fourth down.
After forcing Nevada to go three-and-out on the ensuing possession, it appeared as if Utah State was going to open a 14-0 lead when Davis returned a punt by the Wolf Pack 68 yards to the house. However, an illegal block in the back penalty called on the Aggies wiped out the touchdown.
Nevada tied it at 7-7 late in the first quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Bianco to Cameron Zeidler.
It was all Utah State from there, though, as the Aggies scored 27 of the game’s next 30 points.
Elliott Nimrod booted a 21-yard field goal to put the hosts back on top for good at 10-7 and on the Pack’s ensuing possession, Tuiaki intercepted a pass by Bianco.
Nevada had reached the Utah State 22 and was looking to either tie the game or take its first lead. However, a false start penalty and a sack by Blaine Spires set up the second-and-18 play from the Aggies’ 30 that ended with Tuiaki celebrating in the opposite end zone.
The Wolf Pack did pull to within 17-10 after Brandon Talton made a 38-yard field goal.
Following the break, Nimrod kicked his second field goal of the game, this time from 37 yards out, to push Utah State’s advantage out to 27-10. Faison’s fourth rushing touchdown of the season – a 2-yarder – made it 34-10 with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Terrell Vaughn capped the scoring for the Aggies when he hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass from Legas to give USU a 41-18 lead with 5:27 left in the game.
Like Davis, Vaughn also caught six passes for 46 yards.
Nevada kept Utah State’s Jalen Royals in check as he finished with just three catches for 27 yards and zero touchdowns – ending a string of five-consecutive games in which the junior wide receiver had found the end zone.
Utah State concludes the home portion of its schedule when the Aggies welcome Boise State to town on Saturday, Nov. 18.