A sea of San Diego State football players rushed to the southwest corner of the field at SDCCU Stadium to hoist the Old Oil Can trophy after they clinched a 17-7 victory over Fresno State on Friday night.
“Absolute chaos,” senior quarterback Ryan Agnew said of the postgame celebration. “I remember the last time they won it (in 2017), they ran to our sideline and grabbed it.”
The Aztecs, who had to wait three years for that moment, might’ve felt a sense of revenge while putting their hands on the trophy.
“It’s not the prettiest trophy,” Agnew added. “But it means a lot to us, and we’re excited to have it back.”
It also wasn’t the prettiest game to watch as both teams combined to commit five turnovers.
Aztecs head coach Rocky Long said Tuesday turnovers will decide the outcome of the game.
Well, Long was right.
The Aztecs (8-2, 5-2 Mountain West Conference) forced three turnovers, compared to Fresno State’s two and held on to first place of the West Division in the MWC standings.
Two of those three turnovers committed by the Bulldogs (4-6, 2-4 MWC) came from the hands of senior cornerback Luq Barcoo, who snatched two interceptions and jumped up to second in the nation with seven interceptions. Barcoo had his second multi-interception game this season (three interceptions at Colorado State on Oct. 5).
“It is great knowing that I’m making plays to help the team win,” Barcoo said. “I look forward to getting more and helping the team win a championship.”
Offensively, two Aztecs had career-highs: senior quarterback Ryan Agnew and redshirt freshman wide receiver Jesse Matthews.
Agnew notched career highs in completions (33), attempts (47), yards (323) and added a touchdown pass. He is the first Aztec quarterback to throw for over 300 yards since Quinn Kaehler in 2014 against Air Force.
The Aztecs had 32 pass attempts by halftime.
Thirty-two pass attempts.
This isn’t what Aztec fans are used to seeing, including former tailback Donnel Pumphrey Jr. who tweeted at halftime how times have changed within the SDSU offense.
Aztecs fans also aren’t used to seeing – except maybe in the last season or so – 37 carries for 102 yards (2.8 yards per carry).
Those days of running backs such as Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny carrying the ball 30 to 40 times a game seem to be over.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said Friday morning on XTRA 1360 the play calling needs to be more aggressive.
More aggressive apparently meant throwing the ball more. SDSU recorded 47 pass attempts, which was the most since 2013 against Eastern Illinois.
“I think that we threw it more on normal down and distance,” Long said. “Rather than waiting for third down, I think we threw it more on normal down and distance. I think that’s a little more aggressive. In this day and age of football, it’s really not, because a lot of people do that.”
Passing the ball that many times may seem more aggressive, considering the run-heavy offense SDSU has utilized in the past few years.
The 10-point margin of victory could have been wider if not for three blown opportunities to score.
SDSU senior tight end Parker Houston had a five-yard touchdown catch overturned after replay with about 10 minutes left in the second period. Then, with six seconds left in the half, redshirt freshman kicker Matt Araiza had a 42-yard field goal blocked.
Add a fumble by sophomore running back Chance Bell at Fresno State’s two-yard line to the list of missed opportunities by the Aztecs.
Still, SDSU’s offense scored enough points to win – thanks to a defense that only allowed seven points to a Fresno State team that has averaged 34.4 points per game this season.
“I don’t know if y’all realize (Fresno State) averaged 34 points a game and we gave them seven,” Long said before bolting out of the news conference. “Thanks.”
With the win, SDSU controls its destiny to reach the Mountain West championship game. At 5-2 and first place in the West Division, the Aztecs can clinch the division with a win over Hawaii next Saturday.