Tale of two halves costs Aztec football

Kristin Carreon, Senior Staff Photographer

by Ethan Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

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On the blue turf in Boise, Idaho, where the San Diego State football team had been so good the last two times it played there, the Aztecs lost. The team lost by nine points in a game where they led the Boise State University Broncos by as many as 20.

SDSU started hot, scoring two touchdowns and two field goals in its first six drives while holding the Broncos to two interceptions, three punts and a field goal in the same span. The Aztecs couldn’t have started the game any better.

Or could they have? On the Aztecs’ second drive of the game, SDSU started from its own 48 and couldn’t score a touchdown, settling for a field goal. Boise State’s first interception gave the Aztecs great field position at the Broncos’ 49-yard line but the offense only gained eight yards on three plays and had to punt.

But the SDSU defense was playing with ferocity and Boise State couldn’t answer, so it seemingly didn’t matter. It didn’t matter until the third quarter, when the Broncos fooled the Aztecs with a fake punt that went for 24 yards on fourth and short. It proved to give Boise State the shift in momentum it needed to win the game, going on to outscore the Aztecs 28-9 in the second half. That fake punt seemingly sent the Aztecs back to a place they found themselves in earlier this season against the University of North Carolina — a place I hoped I’d never have to write about again.

I’m talking about Anti-Clutch Land.

Yep, the Anti-Clutch Express found itself passing by the Aztecs’ locker room at halftime and the team was all aboard. After running the ball 22 times in the first half and averaging 4.5 yards per carry, the number of carries mysteriously dropped to 14 in the second half even though the Aztecs led by 13 at the beginning of it.

Leading by a score of 23-17 with less than a minute left in the third quarter, the Aztecs started their drive with a pass from senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler that was picked off.

Starting a drive while nursing a lead with the Division I No. 6 rushing leader in your backfield with a passing play is mind-bogglingly anti-clutch.

Also, four of the final five Aztec drives ended in punts and turnovers and gained a total of 24 yards.

Not clutch, Aztecs.

The Aztecs suffered from more than just offensive woes, though. The defense surrendered 238 yards and 28 points in the second half after allowing 184 total yards and 10 points in the first half. It’s tough to say exactly why a difference of about 50 yards equated to 28 extra points for the Broncos, but it did.

With about eight minutes to go in the game, Boise State put together its most clutch drive of the game while the Aztecs defense looked the least clutch it did all night.

Down by two and with senior kicker Donny Hageman going a clutch 3-3 on field goals, the Aztecs still had hope but they needed a stop from their defense in order to win the game.

Unfortunately, the SDSU defense gave up a 14-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to the Broncos and were burned twice on third down by open receivers in the middle of the field.

Not clutch, Aztecs.

This game truly was a tale of two halves. It was almost as if the teams had literally switched uniforms at halftime, as the Aztecs mimicked the mistakes Boise State made in the first half.

Some will say the game time temperature of 9 degrees at Albertson’s Stadium was a major factor in the game, but that’s just not true. If it were, then SDSU wouldn’t have dominated the first half like they did.

This is simply a puzzling case of anti-clutch and I wish I had more answers for you.

I do know one thing — this loss to Boise State is going to make it a lot harder to win the MW this season. SDSU is now tied with California State University, Fresno, and the University of Nevada, Reno, for first place in the West division of the MW and could see the Broncos again if they end up making it to the championship game.

Luckily, the Aztecs finish the season with two home games. They’ve been more successful at Qualcomm Stadium (4-0) than they have been on the road (1-5).

Fingers crossed the Aztecs find a way out of Anti-Clutch Land, and fast.

 

Be sure to read the postgame recap of the SDSU-Boise game here

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