Aztec Football bounces back against Toledo to narrowly pull out a 17-14 win at home

In the battle of the defenses, SDSU football came out on top thanks to their defense’s stellar play

SDSU+senior+Jesse+Matthews+dives+to+catch+the+ball+during+SDSUs+17-14+victory+over+Toledo+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+24+at+Snapdragon+Stadium.

Jesse Gordon

SDSU senior Jesse Matthews dives to catch the ball during SDSU’s 17-14 victory over Toledo on Saturday, Sept. 24 at Snapdragon Stadium.

by Jake Enrico, Contributor

Coming off a blowout loss against Utah (3-1) last week, the San Diego State Aztecs (2-2) got back on track Saturday, beating the Toledo Rockets (2-2) 17-14 at Snapdragon Stadium.

The game was won by the Aztecs’ dominant defensive play as they held Toledo’s offense to 14 total points while forcing four turnovers. The Rockets came into the game averaging 37.7 points per game, and the Aztecs held them to their season lowest points total. 

Coach Brady Hoke was thrilled with his team’s effort in the game and made note that the defense came to play.

“Every day we go out there, we improve on the defensive side of it, and that toughness gets better,” Hoke said. “We’re tougher now than we were in the first game.”

The defense came prepared Saturday as SDSU did not give up a single point until the eight minute mark in the fourth quarter. They held the Rockets in check for the majority of the game, however the Aztecs offense were often unable to capitalize.

The Aztecs started off the game with three straight punts. It was not until the second quarter where senior running back Jordan Byrd got things going for the offense.

On a two play drive early in the second, Byrd rushed twice for 80 yards including a 43-yard touchdown. He finished the day with 115 rushing yards.

“We have young guys on the team, and I just kept talking to them, keeping them calm,” Byrd said. “They opened up the hole for me and I ended up having some good runs.”

The defense was able to force two turnovers in the second quarter. Senior safety Cedarious Barfield got his first collegiate interception off of Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn’s screen pass. The second turnover of the quarter came from junior linebacker Cooper McDonald’s fumble recovery while Toledo was in the red zone. 

However the offense stalled on both opportunities and the Aztecs went into halftime up 7-0.

The defense wasted no time in the second half picking up where they left off. Junior safety Davaughn Celestine picked off Finn early in the third quarter. Once again, SDSU’s offense was forced to punt the ball and not convert off the turnover. 

Arguably the play of the game came at the end of the third quarter as senior kicker Jack Browning hit the longest field goal of his career. He nailed a 50-yard attempt to extend the Aztecs lead to 10-0. 

Browning was named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance Saturday. 

The tides shifted in the fourth quarter. Toledo marched down the field from their own 27-yard line to score their first points of the game. Finn threw an 11-yard pass to 6’6 tight end Jamal Turner for the touchdown. 

After the ninth punt of the game for the Aztecs, they pinned Toledo on their own 7-yard line. 

But the punt meant little as the Rockets offense drove 93 yards down the field capped with a 1-yard rushing touchdown from Finn. This resulted in Toledo’s first lead of the game 14-10 with just under three minutes remaining.

With the Aztecs offense struggling most of the game, Senior quarterback Braxton Burmeister used his legs in the two minute drill to find success. Burmeister, who finished with only 65 passing yards on the day, made some big throws late but his fight on the ground led his offense to the one yard line. 

With just 41 seconds left in the game, Byrd rushed for his second touchdown from one yard out and gave the Aztecs a 17-14 lead.

On the first play of the Rockets’ answering drive, senior linebacker Caden McDonald took a page out of his brother’s book and sealed the game, intercepting Finn for his third of the game.. The McDonald brothers were each able to get huge turnovers for the Aztecs defense.

McDonald (Caden) said there is no sibling rivalry despite both brothers playing key roles in the win.

“No, it’s a team sport,” said McDonald. “I could care less if Coop has a 100 interceptions and I have zero. The Aztecs are winning. That’s all I care about.”

The Aztecs leave this win on a short week as they start conference play next Friday taking on Boise State (2-2) in Boise.