Aztecs take on San Jose State in Mountain West football game
On game days, the San Diego State football team enjoys a police escort for the arduous 5 mile journey from campus to Snapdragon Stadium.
At one point along Friars Road on Saturday evening, with SDSU buses a few blocks away, a CHP officer with his lights flashing drove into the middle of an intersection and turned on his speaker.
“Get out of the way,” he said.
And people stopped.
The SDSU attack conducted with surprisingly similar ease against San Jose State before an announced crowd of 28,406 (internally estimated at 20,000).
Surprising because not only did SDSU rank 115th in the nation in offense (19.6 ppg), but San Jose State ranked 10th in defense (16.4 ppg).
It was a “rub your eyes, scratch your head” result: SDSU 43, San Jose State 27.
How to explain the offensive outing?
“We executed better,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said simply.
Mountain West’s win made the Aztecs bowl (6-4, 4-2 MW) eligible for a school-record 13th straight season.
SDSU quarterback Jalen Mayden (17 for 22, 268 yards) threw three touchdown passes for the first time in his career. He also moved the chains with his legs, carrying 13 times for a team-high 61 for 157 rushing yards.
The SDSU defense allowed touchdowns on San Jose State’s first two possessions (6-3, 4-2), then forced five straight punts before the Spartans launched another scored drive.
Spartans quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (19 for 33, 195 yards) was rendered nearly irrelevant for much of the night, throwing his final two touchdown passes with the game out of reach.
The Spartans defense hadn’t allowed an opponent more than 28 points this season.
SDSU, which led 24-14 at halftime, had 31 points on the board six minutes into the third quarter. That, after Mayden hit wide receiver Jesse Matthews with a 20-yard touchdown pass on the first possession of the second half.
Jaylon Armstead’s 3-yard touchdown run with 3:15 left in the third quarter extended the lead to 38-14, tying SDSU’s highest point total of the season. A 31-yard field goal from Jack Browning with 6:55 remaining made it a season-high 41.
The SDSU defense capped the victory by sacking Cordeiro for a safety in the final minute of the game.
It was a reminder that this was supposed to be a defensive game. So much for that.
The Spartans took the first 73-yard possession in 11 plays before Cordeiro hit receiver Elijah Cooks with a 5-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0.
SDSU’s first possession ended when Mayden threw a third interception on his own 31-yard line.
“I come off (the court) and it drove me crazy,” Mayden said. “It’s a bad game, but everyone takes me. … The defense always comes and hugs me, and they say, ‘We’ve got your back. It’s a long game. There will be adversity. Just shake it. And that’s what I did. »
San Jose State converted it into a 4-yard touchdown by Cordeiro, the Spartans’ second touchdown in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Once again, it was the special teams Aztecs who got their teammates back, with Jordan Byrd returning 95 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, taking San State’s lead. Jose at 14-7 with 4:45 left in the opening period.
“We didn’t start the game the way we would like, but I think they all came together,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said. “We were worried about the execution. … The kicking game was huge. Byrd and his touchdown, I think that was really a spark for us.
The SDSU defense stiffened on their third chance against Cordeiro and Co., forcing a three-and-out.
San Jose State punter Alex Weir’s effort went just 31 yards, giving the SDSU offense short from the Spartans 42.
The SDSU offense finally showed signs of life when, after the punt team entered the field fourth and fifth at 37, the Aztecs shifted gears and fired the offense.
Mayden joined Matthews (four catches, 57 yards) on the right sideline for a first down at the 24-yard line. Then he hit receiver Tyrell Shavers for a 23-yard gain on 1 before time expired in the first period.
However, three plays – two of them incomplete – failed to get over the goal line and SDSU settled for a 22-yard Browning field goal that made it 14-10 early in the second quarter. .
The next time they got the ball back, the Aztecs took the lead. The offense did it with its biggest play of the season, when Mayden threw a pass over the defense and into the hands of Shavers (four catches, 111 yards), who went 66 yards for a touchdown. which provided SDSU with a 17-14 advantage. .
With the TD, the Aztecs exceeded the average number of points (16.4) that San Jose State’s top-10 scoring defense allowed this season.
Mayden was back moments later, hitting wide receiver Mekhi Shaw (five catches, 64 yards) with a 17-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter that gave SDSU a 24-14 lead at halftime. time.
• The temperature at kick-off was 55 degrees, the lowest in Snapdragon Stadium’s history.
• Substitute quarterback for SDSU Braxton Burmeister missed practice this week due to an undisclosed illness and was not among the QBs during pregame warmups.
Real Freshman Liu Aumavae served as Mayden’s backup against the Spartans.
• What impact has the transfer portal had on college football?
That’s a lot: Six of the 10 teams the Aztecs have faced this season have used starting quarterbacks who didn’t start their careers with their current schools.
That includes Cordeiro, who started three years in Hawaii before moving to San Jose State.
Of course, the two QBs who started for SDSU this season — Mayden (Mississippi State) and Burmeister (Virginia Tech) — also transferred from elsewhere.
• Fresno State (6-4, 5-1) came one step closer to victory in the West Division on Friday night with a 37-30 victory at UNLV.
The Bulldogs, who hold a decisive advantage over SDSU and San Jose State, can clinch a share of the West title and a berth in the Mountain West championship game, with a win Saturday at Nevada.
Next opponent: SDSU plays its final road game of the year Friday night at 6:45 p.m. PT against New Mexico.
The Lobos (2-8, 0-6, plus Saturday’s result) suffered their seventh straight loss of the season Saturday afternoon, losing 35-3 to the Air Force.
New Mexico had just one field goal in the third quarter against the Falcons, rushing for just 172 total rushing yards. New Mexico quarterback Justin Holaday (10 for 21, 128 yards).
The Air Force, which attempted just two passes in the game, ripped off the Lobos defense for 428 rushing yards (on 70 carries) and four touchdowns.