Albuquerque, New Mexico
At this point of the Aztecs 2022 football season one would have thought all was lost. With a struggling offense to begin the year, coaching changes, quarterback injuries & transfers—could you blame anybody for feeling this way?
The Mountain West Conference Championship is out of reach. Another year of win22 will be the war cry for the Aztecs. All the frustrations of this year surely can’t be forgotten…right?
The new look Aztecs despite all the previous shortcomings are trying to do just that. Brady Hoke’s team are winners in 5 of the last 6 games and in the process have been putting up offensive numbers not seen since the days of his first tenure on the Montezuma Mesa.
It’s no coincidence the man behind center in those good ol days, Ryan Lindley, is the same man leading the QB coaching duties in this years resurgence of college football in San Diego.
The Mayden Factor
QB Jalen Mayden is leading the Red & Black to their highest passing output in almost a decade. Last week against San Jose State, Mayden was the first SDSU QB since Ryan Lindley in 2010 to win the Mountain West Conference player of the week award outright.
Mayden in just his first start ever at the FBS level, threw for over 322 passing yards, just six shy of equaling the total passing yardage thrown in the previous 5 games combined.
He has amassed over 1,500 passing yards in just 6 games and looks to add to that total in the seasons final stretch next week against Air Force and in the subsequent bowl game.
Stats and metrics are the way to measure the bottom line in wins & losses of a game. But what can’t be left behind are the wins & losses of the hearts & minds of fans & supporters.
San Diego is a city that has been without pro football for 7 years. To add to this abandonment was being without their oldest and highest quality college football team for 2 years, the SDSU Aztecs.
Even with all the trappings of a magnificent shiny new stadium, the play on the field just wasn’t enough this season to make up for so much lost time. But for now, that appears to have all changed.
With this new exciting offense, San Diego State football has the real opportunity to grab ahold of the San Diego football community with Jalen Mayden at QB.
Saturday night the Aztecs extended their winning streak to 3 games when they handled the New Mexico Lobos 34-10. The final score isn’t something the Aztecs haven’t shown before in years past. But it’s the manner in which this team has scored their points that has a new buzz around campus.
From the Days of Air Coryell, Through the Tom Craft Era
Big plays through the air is something SDSU fans have historically come to accept as their right. This team is capturing that same spirit, as spreading the ball around to various receivers for big play scores is quickly becoming an every week feature.
On this night in Albuquerque it was WR Mekhi Shaw’s turn to once again stand out. The walk-on receiver caught his first ever TD last week against SJSU at Snapdragon Stadium. On this night he would cross the goal line twice on two outstanding plays to make fools of the Lobos secondary.
Shaw (6 catches 120 yards, 2 TDs) caught the games first TD to put SDSU ahead when he ran a perfect double move up the seam, catching the Mayden pass into the end zone for 51 yards.
The next Aztecs TD was a 1 yard run by Jaylon Armstead. But the set up for that score was an unbelievable effort on WR Tyrell Shavers part. Mayden found Shavers running a shallow cross on a crucial 3rd down and flicked him the ball in stride. From there Tyrell danced his way past several Lobo defenders who had him trapped.
The 6’4″ Shavers took his moves passed the defenders and his long legged stride rode him all the way until he was slowed up and taken down inside the 5 yard line. Just a phenomenal set of escape moves from Shavers who instantly found great chemistry with his Mississippi State transfer teammate QB.
On the next Aztecs touchdown it was WR Shaw once again. This time another twitchy move got him behind the defender and in between the goal line and the safety. After securing the catch, the quick reaction time for Shaw to instinctively side step the incoming safety allowed him to score and put the Aztecs up 21-7.
The pass & catch combo was a thing of beauty, showcasing a new dimension to the passing game between Mayden & Shaw. This valuable connection appears to be a great sign of things to come rolling into the 2023 season.
But What About the Running Game?
From the days of Pumphrey & Penny, SDSU has long been known as the ground & pound possession eating offense behind OC Horton during the Rocky Long era. But now with Brady Hoke at the controls, a more balanced offense is the ultimate desire.
This Aztecs team has struggled to consistently run the ball to the standards set by the former mentioned all-time backs. While this season hasn’t shown that dominant production, the future of the Aztecs rushing attack looks brighter than ever.
With Jaylon Armstead as the bruiser, USC Transfer Kenan Christon appears to be ready to be the next burner in the stable to carry on where Jordan Byrd left off. On this night Christon put the game out of reach when he took a handoff right around the edge and delivered the 49 yard run to the end zone. No one came close to touching him.
Christon (10 carries 102 yards, 1 TD) will compete for a large portion of carries next season. Also getting some carries on this night and should be in that mix next year, is RB Sheldon Canley and Lucky Sutton. Both possess the kind of next level athleticism at the RB position. Time will only tell if either can grasp the offense fully where pass protection is something they can also handle.
The new look Aztecs however still look the same with their defense which has long been set in their system. The fantastic culture of players possessing excellent work ethic and attitude is where it all begins.
The defensive pressure was relentless all night as LB Cooper McDonald and DL Justus Tavai each recorded sacks. Safety Patrick McMorris and DB Cedarious Barfield each wrapped up 17 tackles between just the two of them. And CB Dallas Branch recorded his 3rd INT in 3 games.
But New Mexico is a horrible team right now. Losers of 6 straight, the Lobos have started 3 different QBs all season and have had 50 starters replaced in all the various positions. It has been a nightmare season for coach Danny Gonzales’ team.
The Aztecs however handled business as they should. This team is just more exciting to watch at their job.