Aztecs hold on for 20-17 win over UNLV, enter bye week with 7-1 record

Sophomore+wide+receiver+Ethan+Dedeaux+catches+a+49-yard+touchdown+in+the+Aztecs%27+20-17+win+over+UNLV+on+Oct.+26+at+Sam+Boyd+Stadium+in+Las+Vegas.

Sam Mayo

Sophomore wide receiver Ethan Dedeaux catches a 49-yard touchdown in the Aztecs' 20-17 win over UNLV on Oct. 26 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

by Kyle Betz, Assistant Sports Editor

LAS VEGAS –– San Diego State football entered the fourth quarter against UNLV with an 11-point lead last November. 

Long story short, that lead collapsed into a 27-24 Rebel victory.

Fast forward one year later, the Aztecs held a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

UNLV junior tight end Giovanni Fauolo Sr. caught a two-yard touchdown to narrow the Rebels’ deficit to 20-17. After an SDSU three-and-out, the Rebels got the ball back with 3:44 remaining.

It seemed like déjà vu.

On fourth-and-24, UNLV redshirt freshman quarterback Kenyon Oblad connected with sophomore wide receiver Randal Grimes for a 42-yard reception – ultimately setting the Rebels up for a potential 42-yard game-tying field goal with 37 seconds remaining.

UNLV junior kicker Daniel Gutierrez drilled the upright, missing the attempt and giving the Aztecs a 20-17 win over the Rebels on Oct. 26 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Head coach Rocky Long said the Aztecs (7-1, 4-1 Mountain West Conference) were lucky to have pulled off the victory.

“It’s all frustrating,” Long said. “It’s unbelievable how spoiled we are, including me, that you can win a football game and be mad. I mean, that’s ridiculous. We’re 7-1, we’re on top of the Western Division in our conference. We ought to be happy, we ought to be celebrating, but we’re not. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. It’s probably not right.”

It was a tale of two halves between both teams.

SDSU got off to a hot start thanks to a 49-yard touchdown reception by sophomore wide receiver Ethan Dedeaux on the Aztecs’ second drive of the game.

The score marked the Las Vegas native’s first career touchdown – tied for the Aztecs’ longest pass play this season.

With under a minute left in the first quarter, junior defensive back Trenton Thompson blocked a punt which was recovered by sophomore linebacker Caden McDonald in the end zone for a touchdown. The play turned out to be the Aztecs’ second special teams touchdown in the last two weeks.

From then on, the Scarlet and Black were unable to reach the end zone again.

Long said SDSU might have underestimated the Rebels after the Aztecs took an early lead.

“I’m sure our team thought after we jumped out ahead that it was going to be easy,” Long said. “And that’s the dumbest thing any athlete can ever do – think it’s going to be easy. Now, that’s probably not right. I ought to give UNLV credit; their kids probably just bowed up and made it a game.”

SDSU’s defense, meanwhile, was pitching a first-half shutout until the 1:26 minute mark, when UNLV sophomore wide receiver Randal Grimes scored a 58-yard receiving touchdown to narrow the Aztecs’ lead to 17-7. Oblad found sophomore wide receiver Tyleek Collins for 28 yards on 3rd and 21 en route to the touchdown.

Long said that third-and-long conversion changed the narrative of the game.

“We go in at halftime, and instead of being way ahead and have the momentum in our favor, all of a sudden, it’s a close game and the momentum is in their favor,” Long said.

That momentum seemed to continue into the second half, as the Rebels held an advantage in time of possession (18:55) and held the Aztecs to 116 yards, including 26 in the fourth quarter.

The Aztecs, who entered the game as the third-ranked rushing defense in the nation, allowed 121 rushing yards – the second-highest total they’ve succumbed all season.

Senior linebacker Kyahva Tezino said the team showed signs of complacency throughout the contest.

“They had momentum and our guys were getting a little bit too complacent,” Tezino said. “At the end, we chuckled down and just made plays. It can’t be like that.”

UNLV also won the turnover battle, forcing senior quarterback Ryan Agnew to throw his first interception in his last 124 passing attempts.

Now, SDSU faces its second bye week of the season before taking on Nevada in the Aztecs’ Homecoming game on Nov. 9.

Until then, Agnew said the team has to get to work.

“We’ve got a lot of things to work on in the bye week,” Agnew said. “We’ve got to get better. You can’t win games like that all the time.”

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