Aztecs squander second-half lead, fall to 2-1 after loss to San José State

Sophomore+quarterback+Carson+Baker+elevates+to+score+a+1-yard+rushing+touchdown+during+the+Aztecs%27+28-17+loss+to+San+Jos%C3%A9+State+on+Nov.+6+at+Dignity+Health+Sports+Park+in+Carson%2C+Calif.

Colleen Humel, SDSU Athletics

Sophomore quarterback Carson Baker elevates to score a 1-yard rushing touchdown during the Aztecs’ 28-17 loss to San José State on Nov. 6 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif.

by Kyle Betz, Sports Editor

Entering Friday, San Diego State football held its first two opponents to just 13 points combined, and had won eight straight games when scoring first.

That streak was snapped however, as San José State walked into Dignity Health Sports Park to defeat the Aztecs 28-17 on Nov. 6.

The Spartans (3-0) found themselves down 10-7 at halftime but stormed back in the second half to hand the Aztecs (2-1) their first loss of the season.

Head coach Brady Hoke said the Aztecs did not play the way they anticipated.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed as a football team,” Hoke said. “We didn’t play our best football. (We) had some penalties that hurt us, got to take care of the football better and we just didn’t play as well as we need to.”

Mistakes and turnovers factored into SDSU’s lack of success on both sides of the ball.

Sophomore quarterback Carson Baker was hit while he threw a pass with 11:44 left in the game. The pass was ruled a lateral by the officiating crew and the ball was recovered by the Spartans, who would begin the ensuing possession in their red zone.

That turnover set up a 3-yard rushing touchdown from senior running back Tyler Nevens to give SJSU the lead at  21-17 with 11:10 to go.

Hoke said the backwards pass was played well by the Spartans, but he’s unsure of the decision.

“We had a screen set up and they did a nice job of diagnosing it,” Hoke said. “(Baker) was trying to get it out there as close as he could with making it a legal throw. There was some momentum when the guy pushed him. I don’t know if that forced him the ruling of a backward pass. There’s some plays we need to look at you know tomorrow and get some clarification on a couple of them.”

Enough time was left at that point for the Aztecs to come back, but another miscue gave the already-leading Spartans the ball with six minutes to play. The Aztecs cruised down the field as part of an 11-play, 47-yard drive, but Baker turned the ball over again — this time, on the opposite side of the field.

SJSU sophomore defensive back Tre Jenkins came up with the interception in the Spartans’ end zone. 

The Aztecs had yet another opportunity to score after forcing a punt, but junior running back Jordan Byrd muffed a punt with 3:32 left. The Spartans took over at their own 20-yard line and didn’t look back.

SJSU sophomore quarterback Nick Nash ran the ball in from 14 yards to seal the victory for the Spartans after what could have been a comeback win for the Aztecs.

A dual-threat quarterback, Nash entered the game during the first quarter after second-leading Mountain West Conference passer and graduate transfer quarterback Nick Starkel went down with an injury.

Nash was the Spartans’ leading rusher on the night with 11 carries for 53 yards.

Despite not expecting Nash as the starter, Hoke said the team was prepared to see him play.

“We had seen (Nash) play and so we knew and during the course of the year they played (both Starkel and Nash),” Hoke said. “Obviously, he extended some plays so we needed to tighten that up. I think we knew what to expect, we just didn’t perform.”

The Aztecs initially kept Nash in check by forcing four straight three-and-outs in the first half, but he was able to capitalize on the defense later in the game.

Nash completed 16 out of his 25 passes for 169 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Despite coming up with the only turnover from the Aztecs’ defense, senior safety Tariq Thompson was unhappy with the defensive performance.

“I feel like we didn’t play to our potential and I feel like we still haven’t played to our potential,” Thompson said. “That’s something that we got to (do), go back to the film, figure out how we got to be better physically, mentally and in all areas of the game.”

On the other side of the ball, the Aztecs did not get the rushing production they had in their first two games.

Senior running back Greg Bell was the team’s workhorse with 25 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown in addition to six catches for 34 yards.

Bell didn’t have his best statistical night as an Aztec, but he did become the first player in program history to record three consecutive 100-yard rushing games to start his SDSU career.

The junior running back trio of Byrd, Chance Bell and Kaegun Williams were only able to settle for 22 total yards.

Senior left tackle Kyle Spalding said the offensive line didn’t match SJSU’s physicality to propel the run game.

“It was a physical game — not as physical as we’d like on our end, but they came out to play and we didn’t quite match it,” Spalding said. “The communication and getting the calls out wasn’t quite there for us tonight and that’s something that we need to get back on the field and practice and get ready for next week.”

A bright spot for the Aztecs offensively was sophomore wide receiver Jesse Matthews, who tallied his third-career 100-yard receiving game with a six-catch, 139-yard performance.

Matthews was the spark the Aztecs needed to score against the Spartans.

His first involvement was a 50-yard reception during the first drive of the game. That set up a 34-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Matt Araiza to give the Aztecs an early 3-0 lead.

A 26-yard reception from Matthews helped place the Aztecs in the red zone before Greg Bell scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown to give the Aztecs a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“(Matthews) is one of the harder workers when you look at our football team,” Hoke said. “He did a nice job making some plays, making some catches that a lot of guys wouldn’t.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email