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

After a narrow win over Idaho State, is SDSU football ready for its closeup?

An uneven week one outing shows Aztecs having plenty to prepare for with upcoming prime time showdown against UCLA on Saturday
Victor Nyden
San Diego State cornerback Noah Tumblin reacts during the Aztecs 36-28 win over Idaho State on Saturday, Sept. 2 at Snapdragon Stadium. The senior recorded his first interception of the season, while the SDSU defense had three interceptions for the second straight game.

A funny thing happened during San Diego State’s supposed “dress rehearsal” game against Idaho State.

With the bright lights and a big audience expected for the Aztecs nationally broadcast prime time appearance against UCLA waiting in the wings next weekend, the FCS Bengals refused to be treated like understudies.

SDSU picked up their second win of the season 36-28 on Saturday night, but not before finding out that their progress from week one to week two is going to have to be a whole lot more than it was for this showing.

“I don’t think we played the kind of football we wanted to play,” said head coach Brady Hoke. “(Not in the) kicking game, offensively, defensively, (we) didn’t tackle well, didn’t do a good job late in the half twice (and) we’ve got to do a better job (in) coverage.”

So, pretty much every stage of the game.

There were also the 14 penalties for 138 yards — a Snapdragon Stadium record and the most penalty yardage against the Aztecs in over a decade — with six that gifted Idaho State first downs. The offense got caught holding four times, while the defense jumped offside four times and picked up a pair of personal fouls.

The Bengals mixed primarily short and intermediate passing plays to the tune of 309 yards through the air. Both of their quarterbacks had more attempts (41 and 22) and yards (164 and 145) passing individually than SDSU’s combined 13-for-20 for 87 yards.

Even ever-reliable Jack Browning, the reigning Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week, had an off night punting the ball five times for an average of 43.2 yards per. He still made both field goal attempts from 32 and 41 yards out.

For all the issues, the Aztecs trailed for exactly 1:59 of the game.

Jalen Mayden was the leading man in the run game, setting a single game program record for rushing by a quarterback with 132 yards on eight carries. His 24 and 56 yard scoring runs were highlights on a night where SDSU pounded out 302 yards on the ground, while Jaylon Armstead and Martin Blake (for the first time in his career) also found the endzone.

“We did a good job up front, and I think we are making progress there,” Hoke said. “I know we had some penalties that we don’t want to have, but I thought we did some better things.”

The secondary snatched three interceptions for the second game in a row, making it 32 straight wins when forcing at least a trio of turnovers. Safety Cedarious Barfield had his second in as many games, while cornerbacks Dez Malone and Noah Tumblin each nabbed their first of the season.

“We have the talent to play real good, tight coverage,” Malone said. “(We’ve) just got to keep building confidence throughout these weeks.”

The Aztecs will need it for their moment in the spotlight when the Bruins come to town.

UCLA scored 13 fourth quarter points to pull away from Coastal Carolina 27-13 in their 2023 debut, as the defense shut down the final five Chanticleers drives and forced three turnovers.

While Idaho State used a two-quarterback rotation, the challenge will be greater with the Bruins signal-caller duo of Ethan Garbers and electric freshman Dante Moore. Wide receiver J.Michael Sturdivant made his UCLA debut and promptly set a new career-high of 134 yards receiving, with a 62 yard touchdown catch.

Yet Bruins head coach Chip Kelly was focused on many of the same things in his postgame press conference that Hoke was. That’s usually how it goes on opening night.

The Aztecs have plenty of work to be done over the coming week for their next performance to earn rave reviews.

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.