Aztecs taste sweet revenge in an all around team effort to defeat the reigning Mountain West champions Spartans 19-13

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Justin Truong/SDSU Athletics

Junio safety Patrick McMorris (33) raises his fist during the game against San Jose State (Courtesy of Justin Truong/SDSU Athletics).

by Austin Tarke, Staff Writer

It took an ‘all hands on deck’ effort as the coaching, defense and special teams were the key ingredients for San Diego State football (6-0, 2-0 Mountain West Conference) to outlast the San Jose State Spartans (3-4, 1-2 MWC) in double overtime 19-13.

After a spectacular interception in the second overtime by senior safety Trenton Thompson, senior quarterback Lucas Johnson threw the game-winning touchdown pass to junior receiver Jesse Matthews as the No. 24 ranked Aztecs improved to 6-0 for just the second time in the last 40 years. 

The game featured little excitement as no touchdowns were scored in four quarters of regulation. The Spartan crowd in CEFCU Stadium was electric as it was their homecoming night which saw a lively crowd. Spartan alumni Krazy George was in attendance who invented “the wave” celebration to provide a spark for the Spartans.

Senior quarterback Jordan Brookshire started the game and struggled, ending up with a passer rating of 18.1. After three quarters of throwing his hands up in the air in frustration and with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, SDSU head coach Brady Hoke made the change to put Johnson in at quarterback, who provided the team with its own spark plug.

“We thought we were a little stagnant and we needed to do something different,” Hoke said.

Johnson was dynamic in overtime as he showed off his legs running for a crucial first down and followed it with the first touchdown of the game — a 14-yard pass to Matthews.

After the Spartans went scoreless on the first possession of double overtime, the Aztecs needed only a field goal to win the game. Instead of playing conservatively, Johnson — on his third pass of the game — threw a gorgeous second touchdown pass to Matthews to walk off the game.

“I looked out there and I saw that Jesse was one-on-one again, so I checked it, and I was either going to get yelled at or it was going to win the game,” Johnson said.

“Gutsy,” said the coaches when Johnson returned to the sideline.

The game revolved around both defenses. The Aztecs came into the game ranked in the top 10 in FBS rankings in most defensive statistics and the Spartans have a defensive front that Hoke said he was intimidated by.

Hoke said that these are the ugly games SDSU has to win to win the conference.

“The game was physical, it wasn’t pretty,” Hoke said. 

After the Aztecs gave up their first touchdown of the game and their first rushing touchdown of the season in the first overtime, they were sent right back out in double overtime to make up for their mistake. The Aztec defense bounced back in a huge way as Thompson had a leaping one-handed interception.

“We knew we just had to get them off the field and win,” Thompson said. “We call it ‘Gotta-have it situations.’ He threw it up, and I just made a play.”

Versatile junior kicker/punter Matt Araiza excelled once again, kicking a career-long 53-yard field goal to score the Aztecs’ first points of the game. Araiza said he ran to coach Hoke after the kick and thanked him for trusting him.

“There’s a gut you have over the course of a game,” Hoke said, referring to the decision to kick the long field goal.

In addition to his two field goals, Araiza had seven punts over the course of the game, including a spectacular 86-yard bomb that flew over the Spartan punt returner’s head and bounced all the way to the San Jose State three-yard line.

Last season, SJSU handed the Scarlet and Black its first loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion, and went on to become MWC champions in 2020. Spoiling the Spartans homecoming in 2021 felt right for the Aztecs, and the locker room celebrated in a crazy fashion.

“Coach Hoke tried to talk a couple times and we were all yelling,” Araiza said. “Part of it is coming to somebody else’s house and beating them in a close game.”

The Aztecs record their sixth win of the year which makes them bowl eligible. However, the team is far from satisfied as they have their eyes on bigger achievements.

“Our main goal is to win the conference championship,”Araiza said.  “We don’t set our sights on a bowl game. We set our sights on the championship, the ring, and the trophy and all that.” 

The Aztecs now have Air Force (6-1, 3-1 MWC) on deck who feature a unique triple option.

Hoke was jokingly upset as he wanted a few more moments to cherish the win instead of thinking about the difficulties of preparing for the Falcons offense.

“They are a physical football team,” said Hoke.“The triple option, whether it’s true triple or not, they know what they are doing.” 

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