San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Eat ’em up: San Diego State’s defense gets some seasoning against Ohio

Football relied on a familiar recipe to key their week zero win, with timely takeaways and a pair of stops in the red zone
Jesse Gordon
From left: Cody Moon (58), Cedarious Barfield (3) and Trey White (47) during a break in action of San Diego State’s 20-13 win over Ohio on Saturday, Aug. 26 at Snapdragon Stadium.

Like a familiar dish at a favorite restaurant, the San Diego State defense has been a comfort food staple for football fans over the past decade.

Saturday’s 20-13 season opening Aztecs win over Ohio had all the trimmings of what has keyed the program to be bowl-eligible every season since 2010.

After all, it’s hard to argue against the run of success by the Aztecs in the two tenures by head coach Brady Hoke that have sandwiched nine years and three Mountain West titles under Rocky Long.

Seeing how this “meat and potatoes” mentality manifested in week zero, it gave some hints of the “seasonings and spices” to what this year’s defense will bring.

When Hoke was asked about the defensive back end before fall camp, he noted the experience at corner, as well as a group of “excited to play” linebackers who have “some goofballs in the room.”

Once they settled in, both units had the last laugh against the Bobcats.

New Mexico transfer Cody Moon came as advertised, with the preseason All Conference linebacker leading the Aztecs with 11 tackles and six solo stops, plus getting a quarterback hurry and breaking up a pass. He and kicker Jack Browning earned Mountain West Player of the Week.

Cedarious Barfield showed all of his senior savvy as he baited, then stepped up to pick off a screen pass just inside the SDSU red zone as the visitors were threatening to add to a 6-3 second quarter lead.

The interception created a swing in the momentum, and eventually on the scoreboard, which proved to be the turning point in the game. The Aztecs would drive and score the first touchdown of the game on the ensuing 44-second, 71-yard drive and never trail again.

Marcus Ratcliffe, the first true-freshman to start at the “Aztec” safety position in SDSU’s 3-3-5 defense since it was installed in 2009, also had standout moments as well. A would’ve-been 90-plus yard interception return for touchdown got wiped away by a penalty on what eventually became Ohio’s only touchdown drive.

Backup Ohio quarterback CJ Harris struggled against the SDSU secondary, as the unit swatted eight balls, with Noah Tumblin leading the way with a game-high three. Outside of five-to-ten yard slant and out routes, plus dump-offs underneath, the Aztecs blanketed the Bobcats.

The linebacking corps was also timely and effective in its pressure.

Zyrus Fiaseu recorded the sack which knocked quarterback Kurtis Rourke, Ohio’s reigning Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, out of the game. Cooper McDonald had a game-high two hurries.

The cherry on top were the interceptions, as pressure and a deflection forced an interception by Trey White on Harris’ first pass, and New Zealand Williams perfectly spied in zone coverage to snatch the game-sealing INT on the final play of the game.

While there are still things to be cleaned up, Hoke specifically mentioned the team’s tackling the first half, several signs point to the positive.

SDSU’s defense has always been “protein-packed” and brought the starch. Aztec fans should expect to eat well again this year.

About the Contributor
Eric Evelhoch
Eric Evelhoch, '23-24 Sports Editor
Eric Evelhoch (he/him/his) is a senior media studies major who was born outside of Detroit, Michigan, and lived in Ventura County, California, for a decade-plus. He is a returning college student and transfer from Santa Barbara City College, where he served as Sports Editor for The Channels. Evelhoch is also a Sports Director for KCR College Radio, where he restarted play-by-play coverage post-pandemic. Currently, he serves as the play-by-play broadcaster for the SDSU ACHA DI hockey team and has filled in on the call for Aztecs sports on the Mountain West Network. His prior freelance experience includes print, digital, online video and audio-only, and broadcast radio formats covering football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and volleyball.