SDSU went to Nevada for a national TV game against an undefeated team they needed to beat to keep their Mountain West Conference title game hopes alive. In the first half the Aztecs were the better team.
In the second half that team disappeared, at least on offense.
San Diego State let a lead slip away with a dismal 2nd-half offensive performance in a 26-21 loss to the Wolfpack.
Lucas Johnson replaced Carson Baker as the Aztecs starting quarterback. Johnson is supposed to be primarily a running threat. He throws the ball a lot better than expected.
Johnson, a Mount Carmel High School alum who started his collegiate career at Georgia Tech before transferring to San Diego State, had 187 yards passing his entire time with the Yellow Jackets. He nearly reached that by halftime.
Johnson completed 10 of 14 passes for 158 yards and a 7-yard TD pass to Kobe Smith before the break. But he didn't abandon his running ability. Johnson also rushed for a 35-yard score, the longest TD run ever by an Aztec QB.
Defensively the Aztecs started well. Nevada, the 2nd-ranked passing offense in the nation, got into the red zone four times but settled for three field goals and one TD as SDSU built a 21-16 halftime lead.
When they came back out of the locker room the offense completely stalled. SDSU went 3-and-out in their first four possessions and only had six yards of total offense in the 3rd quarter. That hurt because it's awfully tough to keep the explosive Wolfpack offense down for a full game. Carson Strong lofted a perfect 50-yard TD pass to Romeo Doubs that put Nevada on top 23-21.
They added a field goal to go up 26-21 and the Aztecs offense continued to struggle. A 5th straight 3-and-out was followed by a drive that yielded one first down but those yards were given back when Johnson was sacked on 3rd down. Amazingly, the Aztecs defense kept them in it and they got a break with five minutes left.
Nevada tried and missed a 51-yard field goal to give SDSU decent field position. Johnson was suffering from leg cramps so he was replaced by Baker, who couldn't jump-start the attack. The Aztecs went 3-and-out again so it would be up to the defense to save the day.
They did just that.
Strong tried to find Doubs but Tariq Thompson got there at the same time, the ball tipped off the receiver's hands and Darren Hall made a diving interception at the Nevada 25-yard-line.
Johnson returned and got the Aztecs a first and goal at the 5-yard-line. They never got any closer. Johnson's final two passes fell incomplete. San Diego State only had 39 yards of total offense in the 2nd half.
The Aztecs fall to 3-2 while Nevada is 5-0 so SDSU's hopes of an appearance in the MWC title game are most likely gone.