Your San Diego State Aztecs pulled off a 19-13 2OT victory over the San Jose State Spartans on Friday night. It was the Aztecs 8th victory out of the last 9 matches against the Spartans and pushed SDSU’s head to head rivalry up to 23-20-2. The game was anything but ordinary and anything but easy.
The last decade has been pure SDSU domination over the floundering Spartans, but it wasn’t’ always this way. So when the Aztecs suffered a defeat last season it was such an oddity to many of you younger Aztecs fans reading this. But to the many senior SDSU fans, they know all too well from our history just how crazy these matchups could be. This game lived up to that historical standard.
It took a while for both teams to get going. And early in the first quarter it appeared as if the same turnover issues from last year were back at it again this year when QB Jordon Brookshire fumbled the ball after brushing against an Aztecs lineman, just after passing into Spartan territory.
The tough Spartan defense stacked the line all night long and were determined to give up nothing to our great Aztecs rushing attack. On the offensive side, a potential Spartan touchdown was eliminated when called for a penalty as their lineman facemasked our blitzing defenders.
For the Aztecs, it took kicker and punter Matt Araiza to get the Aztecs on the board by acing a career long 53 year field goal early in the second quarter after two ‘Spartan penalties’—which consequently became the running theme of the night for San Jose State.
On the next drive, the Spartans tied things up on a 37 yard field goal, 3-3.
San Diego State took the lead again, right before the half, on a second Araiza field goal, 6-3. The first half saw a defensive stalemate between these Northern and Southern California teams. With a lot of chippy play and missed opportunities by both offenses.
After the halftime ended and the third quarter began, it was much of the same for the Aztecs offense. Unfortunately QB Jordon Brookshire who was hoped to have gained his footing back once again, in this his second game back from injury, but it just never materialized. Open Aztecs receivers were missed numerous times and the efficiency needed from the position to run the offense in the face of the Spartan defense crowding the line was a big part of why the Aztecs just couldn’t get anything going on the rushing attack.
In the third quarter Aztecs had the chance to extend their 3 point lead, but missed a 55 yard field goal all because the laces weren’t completely out. The Aztecs held it together forcing another SJSU punt, but the next Aztec drive stalled once again deep in their own end zone. It looked as though the Spartans would have great field position and be poised to score. When the Aztecs drive ended with a punt, it was a crushing, field position flipping 86 yard Matt Araiza punt that undoubtedly earned him Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
But a San Jose State drive marched down the field to score a game-tying field goal to bring the score to 6-6 just after the start of the fourth quarter.
Aztec Head Coach Brady Hoke made a QB change toward the end of the third quarter, bringing in Senior QB Lucas Johnson. The Mt. Carmel high grad had previously started two games, both victories against Utah and Towson, before resuming his backup duties behind Brookshire. Lucas came into the game with a tied score but didn’t appear to be ready for the game speed with which the Spartans brought. So as the fourth quarter carried on, the Aztecs offense continued to sputter with no scoring results.
With 8 minutes left in the final quarter, after an Aztecs punt once again backed up in their own end zone, the Spartans had the ball with terrific field position at their own 41 yard line. They moved the ball down the field to the Aztecs 38 yard line and faced with a 4th down and 1, they were too far for a field goal and with 1 yard to continue the drive, too close not to go for it. So when Tyler Nevens was met at the line of scrimmage by Aztecs defensive lineman Jonah Tavai, it was a hit all of Aztecs nation felt all around. Nevens was stopped and it was a turnover on downs. Aztecs ball.
After a lightning quick Jordan Byrd 12 yard run, the offense once again went backwards with Johnson being sacked forcing the Aztecs once again to rely on a precise Araiza punt. He didn’t disappoint, this time placing it down with in the 5 yard line. It would take the Spartans to move the ball all the way down the field to score against the mighty Aztecs defense before the end of regulation.
San Jose put together a string of plays and desperate heavs to their receivers, especially tight end Derrick Deese Jr. to get the ball positioned at the 34 yard line with a chance to win it all. With 15 seconds left in regulation, placekicker Matt Mercurio had the leg to kick the Spartans into a victory and turn their lackluster season around. But it wasn’t to be. The field goal went wide right, sending the Aztecs bench into an uproar and the game into overtime.
The Aztecs having already come out victorious in their previous triple overtime opportunity vs Utah, got the ball first and struck first. Lucas Johnson was kept in as quarterback and on a 9 yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Jesse Matthews (PAT good) the Aztecs took the lead 13-6. Matthews came into the season with high hopes of a standout Junior season, but with the lack of production at the QB spot his talents hadn’t been utilized to his fullest potential. So when Jesse made the acrobatic catch over the Spartan defender, it was as if a light bulb went on and we all saw the shining star we’ve been missing in this offense.
But the Spartans star player of their own continued to shine as he had all night. Derrick Deese Jr. caught big catch after big catch and landed San Jose State down to the 5 yard line with a physical grab. From there the Spartans even the score with a touchdown of their own on a 1 yard run (PAT good), to tie the score up at 13 a piece.
San Jose State would get the ball to start the 2nd overtime period. But this time Nick Nash’s luck came to an end. After tossing up throws all night to his receivers, Nash’s ill-advised 3rd down pass in the endzone was intercepted by the Aztec defense. The senior Trenton Thompson came up with an unbelievable interception in the end zone and the Aztecs were primed to victory now just needing a field goal to earn the W.
On the Aztecs possession at third down, after two short gain runs, QB Johnson audibled the play away from the run, and went play action, finding the MVP of OT, Jessie Matthews for his second catch in the Overtime and the game-winning touchdown. Aztecs win, 19-13.
In the end, quarterback questions remain moving forward. But the Aztecs control their destiny in the Mountain West Conference. Be sure to listen to this weeks Sons of Montezuma Podcast and check back here at sonsofmontezuma.com for more articles as we provide more SDSU football news leading up to the game.