More love for Aggies’ Love: USU QB honored by the Mountain West
It’s fair to say Jordan Love’s first career start as Utah State’s quarterback was an undeniable success.
The redshirt freshman was rewarded accordingly as he was selected as the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. Love completed 19 of 27 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns, vs. zero interceptions, in USU’s 52-28 road triumph over UNLV last Saturday.
Love, who was also named the College Sports Madness MW Offensive POTW, is just the third Aggie signal caller to exceed the 300-yard throwing barrier in his first career start. The other two were Brett Stevens against Fresno State (1985, 340 yards) and Matt Sauk against Oklahoma State (1996, 390).
“Hats off to Jordan Love, not only in his first start playing very well and very efficient, (and) he was stingy with the ball,” USU head coach Matt Wells said during Monday’s press conference. “But you’re starting your first game on the road and you have a 14-point deficit and you lose your best wideout (in Ron’quavion Tarver). It could be easy to go in the tank and he did not.”
Love became the third Aggie this season to garner one of the conference’s weekly awards, joining cornerback Jalen Davis and special teams standout DJ Nelson.
No. 10 also ran the ball efficiently against the Rebels as he gained 42 yards on eight attempts. Love’s fourth-down TD scamper on a read-option play in the third quarter gave USU its first lead of the game at 35-28.
Love, the America First Credit Union USU Student-Athlete of the Week, is one of just three quarterbacks at the FBS level with three scoring passes of 70 or more yards this season. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder had two of those lengthy strikes to paydirt against UNLV, including an absolute dime of a 70-yarder to Las Vegas native Savon Scarver.
The conference’s Defensive Player of the Week was Fresno State linebacker Jeffrey Allison, who recorded an impressive nine solo tackles in the Bulldogs’ eye-opening 27-3 victory at San Diego State. The sophomore also forced a fumble that the Bulldogs would eventually turn into a TD.
Air Force kicker Luke Strebel was tabbed the league’s Special Teams POTW after booting a 30-yard field goal as time expired to propel the Falcons to a wild 45-42 win at Nevada. The senior made all six of his extra points in the contest.
Nathan atop the MW
Jordan Nathan has been a solid punt returner for the Aggies all season long, but he had a breakthrough performance vs. the Rebels. The redshirt freshman had returns of 70 and 22 yards, which moved him into the top spot in the MW in punt return average (15.7 yards per game).
No. 16 moved past Boise State’s Avery Williams, who has brought back a pair of punts to the house in 2017.
“Jordan Nathan’s done a really nice job in punt returns, especially in limited opportunities,” Wells said. “Nowadays in college football, you don’t get very many punt returns with the hang time, especially where we play in this mountain region with the altitude. And then, we’ve kind of become a punt block team more than a punt return team with all the blocks. When you do that, you limit your return game and he becomes a fair-catch guy.”
USU kicker Dominik Eberle ranks first in the conference in field goal percentage (93.3 percent, 14 of 15) and is second among kickers in points an outing (9.0). Additionally, only one kicker in the league has booted more PATs than Eberle, who is 30 for 30 on the season.
As a team, the Aggies still hold down the No. 1 position in the MW in turnovers forced (20), fumble recoveries (10) and interceptions gained (10). Only California, with 21, has forced more turnovers among FBS programs.
USU ranks in the top three in the conference in scoring offense (third, 32.6 points per game), punt return average (first, 15.6 ypg) and opponents’ third-down conversion rate (third, 35.6).
Davis is one of 13 semifinalists for the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented annually to the best defensive back in college football. The senior is the only player from the MW to make this list, plus the lone representative from one of the Beehive State’s programs.
Banged up Aggies
Injuries are bound to happen, especially when a team has to play 10 straight games before its bye week, which is USU’s lot this season. The Aggies have certainly suffered their fair share of injuries in 2017, but only one of them has been of the season-ending variety — tailback Tonny Lindsey, who only played against Wisconsin.
Nevertheless, USU’s depth is certainly getting tested this fall. Davis and Tarver, both starters, missed most of the UNLV contest with injuries, and linebacker Justus Te’i and cornerback Cameron Haney were also shaken up.
Starting safety Aaron Wade hasn’t played since Week 2, while fellow starter Ian Togiai (defensive end) has missed the last three games. Two other impact performers have sat out at least the last two contests in wide receiver Jaren Colston-Green and defensive end Ritisoni Fata. Additionally, back-up tight end Carson Terrell didn’t take the field last Saturday because of an injury.
“It’s a physical game and that’s going to happen,” USU safety Dallin Leavitt said at Monday’s press conference. “Guys will miss a week here or there, and all we can do is just get them back as soon as possible. But the (improved) depth does give us an opportunity to have those guys go down and not have a drop off at all in the slightest.”