This past Saturday night your San Diego Aztecs beat the Lobos of New Mexico 31-7 and improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2017. The Aztecs are one of five undefeated teams remaining in college football and the only Top-25 ranked team in all of California. Let that sink in.
This was the first game back in several weeks for starting quarterback Jordan Brookshire who was coming off a leg injury. Brookshire who was 11 of 24 passing completions and threw for 130 yards showed that he is back to 100% strength by also adding two touchdowns running the ball.
Running back Greg Bell looked strong by adding 111 yards on the ground on 21 carries after also missing most of the previous game two weeks ago with an injury.
On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas Branch led the team with five solo tackles. Branch, who was making some of his first live snaps due to starting the season on the injured list, was impressive in the defense. His quickness and reaction time covering the receivers stood out. Branch’s return supplies the Aztecs some well rounded depth in the defensive backfield after newcomers Noah Tumblin and true freshman Noah Avinger earned some much needed early season experience.
The Aztecs struck early on the first play from scrimmage. Senior running back Greg Bell showed why the San Diego State rushing attack is annually one of the tops in the nation. The Nebraska transfer has been on his game all season long and on his first touch of the game took the offense deep into Lobo terriroty with a 40 yard run through a massive hole.
Shortly after, a one yard touchdown run by Greg Bell put the Aztecs up 7-0 and they never looked back.
In the second quarter, K Araiza added a field goal to put SDSU up 10-0. After kicking off, a short pass to a Lobo receiver coming over the middle got completely blown up as Aztecs linebacker Michael Shawcroft hammered and stripped the receiver of the ball. The forced fumble was recovered by Dallas Branch who was able to return it out of bounds deeper into New Mexico territory.
But the drive stalled when the Aztecs couldn’t convert on a 4th down pass targeted to WR Tyrell Shavers. After a few punts back & forth, the Aztecs marched into New Mexico terriroty once again and this time Brookshire was able to connect with Shavers on another 4th down attempt. With a stacked heavy offensive formation set, the big bodied Shavers is proving to be worked into the offense more as the season advances. Credit to coach Hecklinski for trusting the Brookshire to Shavers connection and for Jordon for standing tall in the pocket and delivering the strike knowing the hit was coming.
That confidence booster set up this smooth QB roll out as Brookshire scored from two yards out to give the Aztecs a 17-0 lead. And after a promising New Mexico drive ended with a dynamite Trenton Thompson interception near the endzone, the Aztecs took the 17-0 lead into half time.
In the second half the Lobos got on the board after forcing a standup Greg Bell fumble, then picking it up and taking it to the house. Aztecs up 17-7 at this point.
The next Aztecs possession found another Brookshire to Shavers connection and after a defensive penalty on the Lobos for holding big WR Elijah Kothe on a deep route the Aztecs were gearing for another score.
With 2:35 left in the third quarter, Brookshire fooled the Lobo defense, the FS1 TV cameras and everyone in the stadium, when he faked the hand off and ran an 11 yard touchdown. The fake hand off that he did masterful job of selling to the defense again showed the power running game for the Aztecs extends beyond just the great stable of running backs. This put the Aztecs up 24-7.
The fourth quarter started with a beautiful touch pass by Brookshire to BJ Busbee for 36 yards down into Lobo territory. This set up the final score of the game for either side when RB Chance Bell scored the last Aztec touchdown. Chance, the senior, has now scored in back to back games and has shown the hard running style of his that rounds out the depth of this running back group along with fellow seniors Jordan Byrd and Kaegun Williams.
Final score: 31-7
The Aztecs now start the season 5-0 for the first time since 2017, and move up from #25 to #24. San Diego State occupies the #24 spot in both the AP and Coaches polls.
Overall the game was as expected. New Mexico came into Saturdays contest on a free fall losing three in a row. And while their losses included two very quality programs in Air Force and Texas A&M (who just upset #1 Alabama), everyone knew it would take an incredibly and unlikely effort by the Lobos to top the Aztecs.
San Diego State on the other hand came into the contest on a total team roll. The defense has been hammering opponents up and down the field boasting the #2 rushing defense in the nation, allowing a mere 50 yards per game—second only to Wisconsin. As well as a top 10 in the nation ranking for total sacks.
The special teams to this point has been the X factor for the Aztecs. The booming punts by Matt Araiza have aided the teams success in dictating field position, the kickoff and punt returns led by Jordan Byrd have been electrifying and the constant pressure put on by the punt block team has been something to always keep an eye on during the games.
It was the offense that has powered through each game despite not posting attractive passing yardage or completion percentages. The run heavy offense has paved the way just as expected. This Aztecs team plays bully ball with a massive offensive line that is nasty and has surely taken on the identity of new offensive line coach Mike Goff.
While its taken a mix of quarterback play to reach this 5-0 undefeated mark, the positives and negatives are there for all to see. Despite always leading with the ground & pound, the passing game hasn’t been its strength, but thats not for lack of trying. Plenty of opportunities have been attempted by offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski’s offense. Though the consistency isn’t where the team would like it to be, the targets to the receivers and tight ends being taken are enough right now to keep opposing defenses aware and on their heels.
California’s Team: The Aztecs
SDSU is now the only California team to be ranked in the Top-25, while the only football teams around that are remotely close are the Mountain West’s Fresno State receiving 3 AP votes, and the lone Pac-12 team UCLA receiving 1 AP vote.
Will the Aztecs be able to maintain this ranking til season’s end is the question. The Western division of the Mountain West Conference is a very formidable one with Nevada showing they are on a roll, Fresno State staying strong, and a very respectable Hawaii team. But it is the slumping yet dangerous defending Mountain West champions, San Jose State Spartans that host the Aztecs this Friday night. The Aztecs rarely lose to the Spartans as they did last season, so the revenge factor plays big in this weeks matchup. Listen to our podcast this week to get the full pre-game analysis.
Rocky Week As Expected
Lastly, this game featured the return of the great Rocky Long coaching on the New Mexico sidelines. Although the Lobos quality is not where they would like it, as long as Rocky has a hand in the rebuilding of New Mexico football with head coach and protege Danny Gonzales, they will be respectable. It was great to see coach long mix it up with SDSU coaches and players after the game, as it was abundantly clear the competitive spirit to this game was one each side would appreciate this season. All the best to coaches Gonzales and Long as they look to climb back up the Mountain division.