Blunders blur an Aztec win

Jenna Mackey, Photo Editor

by Ethan Bailey, Senior Staff Columnist

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The San Diego State Aztecs football team went on the road and defeated Mountain West Conference rival University of New Mexico 24-14 last Friday, posting nearly 400 rushing yards thanks to running backs Donnel Pumphrey and Chase Price.

Unfortunately, the Aztecs’ dominant rushing performance shouldn’t be the reason many people remember this game.

Instead, they should remember the way the Aztec offense turned the ball over four times in six snaps in the second half before finishing the game in underwhelming fashion.

No, that isn’t a typo — SDSU threw two interceptions and Price and Pumphrey each had a fumble in a span of just six plays.

Perhaps the most ironic part is the interceptions weren’t thrown by freshman starting quarterback Nick Bawden.

Instead, SDSU’s first interception was thrown by redshirt freshman wide receiver Chase Favreau on a trick play. Favreau came across the field as if he was going to take the ball and run with it, but rolled to the left sideline and slung the ball deep down the field into tight coverage and the pass was intercepted.

It was another questionable play selection from the Aztec coaches, seeing as SDSU was protecting a lead and running the ball well.

Have I talked about similar situations before? Because I feel like bad play selection is becoming a normal part of these columns.

On the next possession, Pumphrey fumbled the ball after a decent gain on the ground deep in New Mexico territory.

In his last 242 carries, Pumphrey has only fumbled twice. We’ll forgive him for this one since his 246-yard rushing performance against the Lobos was the best of his career. You still have to hang onto that ball, though.

The Aztec defense then held the hapless Lobo offense and gave SDSU another possession, which ended in another interception.

This one was thrown by senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler, who was inexplicably put in the game at the start of the second half.

The play call? A deep bomb down the right sideline into tight coverage. It’s important to note Kaehler has been nursing an injury to his throwing shoulder for the last few weeks, so looking to hit a deep pass truly seemed like a forced play selection.

While we’re on the subject of quarterbacks, it’s curious why Kaehler was put in the game in the first place. In the first half Bawden didn’t do anything spectacular but didn’t make any egregious errors, either. Bawden finished completing 4 of 13 pass attempts for 63 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception.

Kaehler finished 1 of 10 for 10 yards and the interception. Was it really worth the switch, coach?

There’s no better time than the present to give a young freshman quarterback the essential game reps needed for him to get better, especially against a terrible New Mexico team.

The fourth turnover came from Price, who looked like he was going to score a touchdown but fumbled inside the Lobos’ 10-yard line.

“It’s not like it matters, Ethan,” the masses will say. “New Mexico couldn’t capitalize on the mistakes anyway.”

Too true, informed readers of mine. The Aztecs are lucky they play in the Mountain West — the conference seems to look worse every week.

But that’s part of where the problem lies. The Aztecs are talented enough to annihilate most other Mountain West teams but it hasn’t translated to the field, which is worrisome moving forward.

The Aztecs also couldn’t commit to a healthy quarterback and elected to play an injured Kaehler in the second half. That’s worrisome as well.

It’s tough to be too critical in a week when the team won. Winning is what teams strive for. This game will end up in the win column despite its ugly nature, which is something we can all be thankful for. It’s just disappointing to see an otherwise dominant win marred by needless mistakes.

Last week, I wrote that this team needs to learn to finish games. Friday indicates they still have a long way to go on that front.

I still think this team can be conference champions this season; but if the head-scratching decisions from the sideline continue, the Aztecs might find themselves trying harder to overcome their own mistakes than to beat opposing teams.

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