SDSU football close out season with 13-3 defeat to Air Force on senior night

Aztecs offense struggled to get anything going with just 187 total yards and two turnovers

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Sophia O'Dell

The Air Force defense tackles Aztec senior running back Jordan Byrd during a game that resulted in a 13-3 loss for the SDSU football team, on Nov 26, 2022.

by Jake Enrico, Staff Writer

Coming into the game riding an impressive three game winning streak, the San Diego State football team looked to make it four but fell to Air Force 13-3 while failing to score a touchdown for the first time all season. On the team’s senior night, the loss closed out the Aztecs regular season finishing 7-5 on the year and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference.

SDSU came into the game following a 43-point performance against San Jose State and a 34-point performance against New Mexico but was only able to put up three points at home against Air Force. The Falcons secondary made things difficult for the SDSU passing attack as quarterback Jalen Mayden was able to complete just 16 of 31 passes for 188 yards and two interceptions.

The main difference in the game however was the Air Force rushing attack. The Falcons had just one completed pass all game but 271 yards on the ground including a 63-yard rush on the team’s first drive to set up the game’s only touchdown 2:33 into the first quarter. 

SDSU was far behind as the team netted -1 rushing yards in the contest— easily marking their season low. The rushing discrepancy led to the Air Force offense holding the ball nearly 19 more minutes than the Aztecs.

“We weren’t as clean and crisp as we usually are,” senior offensive lineman Alama Uluave said. “We weren’t rushing around the ball very well. That makes us very one dimensional and not a very good offense.”

After the Air Force 4-yard rushing touchdown, the Aztecs drove down the field and tested the Falcons secondary but were denied in the endzone on a pass intended for senior wide receiver Tyrell Shavers. SDSU kicker Jack Browning missed a 45-yard field goal attempt on fourth down and SDSU remained down 7-0. 

To start the second quarter, SDSU was flagged with two personal foul penalties on separate third downs to push Air Force offense into the redzone. The running game for the Falcons had been working up until the Aztecs defense got a huge goal-line stop to get the ball back and keep it a one score game. 

The Aztec offense continued to stall to close out the first half, netting just 18 yards in the quarter. SDSU went into halftime down 7-0 with only three first downs in the half.

“It’s a different defense when you play triple-option football,” head coach Brady Hoke said. “Air Force is hardcore.”

Things for the SDSU offense did not get any better to start the second half as on the second play from scrimmage, Mayden fumbled and Air Force took over on SDSU’s 14-yard line. The Aztec defense once again held the strong rush attack from the Falcons and limited them to three. 

Midway through the third quarter, the Aztecs finally got on the board with a 26-yard Browning field goal to cut Air Force’s lead back to seven, 10-3. 

That would be the only positive from SDSU’s offense as their final five possessions resulted in three straight punts and back-to-back interceptions in the endzone. Air Force tagged on another field goal in the fourth to ensure their win 13-3.

Air Force came into the game averaging 29 points per game and the Aztec defense was able to hold them to just 13 points. The resiliency from the defense was on display as Air Force rushed the ball 66 times in the game, resulting in the physical game it was made out to be.

“I’m proud of these guys because of how they prepare, how they play, and their physicalness,” Hoke said. “The first thing (Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun) said was, ‘You guys always beat us up. You’re always so physical on our guys, but that goes both ways.’”

SDSU held Air force well below their 366.4 rushing yard average and gave up just 71 rushing yards in the second half.  

“Hats off to our defense,” senior defensive lineman Jonah Tavai said. “The way that we finished that game and the way we played throughout the game, I am really proud of our defense.”

The loss was just SDSU’s second at home all season in their first year playing at Snapdragon Stadium and just their second loss in seven weeks. SDSU will look to get back to the football they were previously playing on Dec. 24 where they will take on Middle Tennessee in the EasyPost Hawai‘i Bowl in Honolulu.