SAN DIEGO (AP) — Wide receiver Elijah Cooks threw a 50-yard pass on a trick play to set up Devonte Lee’s go-ahead, 1-yard run with 10:31 to go that lifted Nevada to a 17-13 victory against No. 24 San Diego State on Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack surprised the Aztecs with a reverse, with running back Toa Taua flipping the ball to Cooks, who stopped and threw a strike to Brendan O’Leary-Orange at the SDSU 5. Three plays later, Lee burst into the end zone for a 17-10 lead.
The Wolf Pack (6-4, 3-3 Mountain West) became bowl eligible and defeated the Aztecs for the second straight season. SDSU (7-2, 4-2) struggled in its first action since jumping into The Associated Press Top 25 two weeks ago. The Aztecs, whose four-game winning streak was snapped, still lead the West Division.
The Wolf Pack’s go-ahead score came after SDSU converted on a daring fourth-down play that was nullified by a holding call. Coach Rocky Long went for it on fourth-and-1 from his 17 and Chase Jasmin converted, but Jacob Capra was called for holding, forcing the Aztecs to punt.
SDSU’s Matt Araiza kicked a 44-yard field goal with 3:46 to go. The Aztecs got the ball back but the drive fizzled near midfield and they turned it over on downs with 1:25 to go.
Cooks also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman Carson Strong to give the Wolf Pack a 10-3 lead midway through the third quarter.
Strong, making his third straight start and seventh overall, led an impressive drive to open the second half. The drive was kept alive when Lee ran the wildcat for two yards on fourth-and-1 from the SDSU 10. After a false start, Strong found Cooks open in the end zone for the score. After a brief end zone celebration, the two ran off the field together.
The Aztecs countered with a long drive of their own to tie it on Chance Bell’s 3-yard run.
The teams played to a 3-3 halftime tie, with Brandon Talton kicking a 34-yard field goal for Nevada in the first quarter and SDSU’s Araiza kicking a 21-yarder early in the second quarter.
Nevada: Strong looked impressive at a position where there’s been upheaval this season. He started the first three games before coach Jay Norvell tried Malik Henry and Cristian Solano before going back to Strong. Strong was coming off a 305-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 21-10 win against New Mexico.
San Diego State: The Aztecs continued to struggle to score points with their new spread offense. The Aztecs were driving inside the Nevada 15 late in the first half after Chase Jasmin leaped over the pile on fourth-and-1 for the first down. But Ryan Agnew threw an incompletion in the end zone and then was intercepted by Daniel Brown, who leaped for the pick at the 1 and returned it 22 yards.
SDSU’s stay in The Top 25 is likely to be short. The Aztecs jumped into the rankings at No. 25 after a close victory at UNLV two weeks ago and then moved up a spot despite being off last week.
Nevada is off next weekend and visits Fresno State on Nov. 23.
San Diego State hosts Fresno State on Friday night in a game that will help decide the MWC West Division title.
More AP college football: and