Aztecs Win Ugly Against Air Force 21-17.
Amid pouring rain and a lightning delay, the Aztecs earned their eighth straight win against a highly formidable Air Force team.
“It’s a pain in the a#%, I’ll tell you what.” -Rocky Long on defending against Air Force’s triple option.
God has a knack of creating dramatic settings when the Aztecs face the Falcons: pouring down rain, crashing lightning, a Falcon triple option, and an Aztecs win. While this easily describes last year’s game in Colorado Springs, Colorado, it also describes last night’s game in San Diego, California at SDCCU Stadium.
The Aztecs(5-1, 2-0 MW) managed their eighth-straight win against Air Force(2-4, 0-3) and their menacing brand of football. Every match has been too close for comfort, and every time an Aztecs win feels like an escape from certain fate.
It was the fifth straight victory of the season for SDSU.
The same Air Force that took Navy to the woodshed last week in a 35-7 win nearly claimed its first victory against the Aztecs in many years on Friday night.
The Aztecs had high high’s and low low’s for much of the first half -despite how the game began.
In just the first three plays following kickoff the Aztecs scored. A 6-yard run by Chase Jasmin, a 55-yard Ryan Agnew pass reception to Fred Trevillion and a 4-yard rush by Jasmin again was all it took.
After 71 seconds the score was 7-0.
At first glance, it seemed the Aztecs would blow this game out. . .
SDSU played progressively worse for the remainder of the half. Offense struggled make a first down, and then with only seven seconds remaining in the first quarter Agnew dropped back on second down his own 11-yard line, and tripped over his own feet falling into his own end zone for a safety making the score 7-2.
Then the skies opened up, as if God himself expressed disapproval.
The Aztecs played football in the rain with as much skill as San Diegans driving in the rain. SDSU then sustained a drive in the second quarter, but couldn’t score on the Air Force 29-yard line. A 24-yard reception by Tim Wilson Jr. helped, and then Agnew dropped back placed a perfect spiral into the arms of “butterfingers” Trevillion for the perfect catch- wait- drop.
Agnew fired his next pass into the end zone, and the Falcons’ Jeremy Fejedelem intercepted it. The only thing worse than a perfectly thrown and missed touchdown pass is a turnover.
At this point most Aztecs fans simultaneously threw up in their mouths.
Air Force then drove 80 yards over nine plays partly due to two SDSU offsides penalties and burned a solid five minutes off the clock. Ronald Cleveland finished the drive off the triple option pitch scoring from 12 yards.
The Air Force moved into a 9-7 lead with 5:13 remaining in the first half. On their very next drive the Aztecs had the ball within field goal range for John Baron II.
In a rare miss Baron’s 44-yard rain kick missed wide right, possibly due to the foul weather. Baron was 10-for-11 this year before the kick.
A few minutes later toward the end of the first half with 18 seconds left, Air Force punter Charlie Scott bobbled a snap and opportunity knocked.
SDSU capitalized as linebacker Kaelin Himphill blocked his punt and Aztecs defensive back Trenton Thompson recovered the fumble, and ran it in for a touchdown- giving the Aztecs a 14-9 lead going into halftime.
“Picking (the blocked punt) up was a huge lift going into halftime,” Rocky Long said.
The SDSU defense had not allowed a run of more than 16 yards through its first five games this season. Air Force ran for 27 and 42 yards in the first half, accounting for almost half of the Falcons’ 142 rushing yards up to that point. Air Force ranks 15th in the nation with 254.8 rushing yards a game.
SDSU’s defense tightened the screws in the second half, allowing 72 yards thereafter- totaling 214 yards rushing on 51 carries (4.2 ypc) for the game.
Then both teams were put on ice. Officials halted the game and pulled the teams from the field when lightning struck near the stadium with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter and the Aztecs still leading 14-9. A downpour soon followed and showers drenched the remainder of the evening.
NCAA rules require a 30-minute delay whenever lightning strikes within eight miles of a venue. The clock is reset whenever another strike occurs. The clock was down to 10 minutes when another bolt came overhead. And again, and again.
All in all, play was halted for 67 minutes. About 500 die-hard fans stayed, just like last year.
While year’s lightning delay helped SDSU tremendously, during their 28-24 win, SDSU didn’t exactly have the same rebound this time around.
The Aztecs had first-and-10 at the Air Force 42-yard line when the game resumed, went three-and-out and didn’t do much thereafter.
Air Force then managed a 17-14 lead with 9:25 remaining when running back Ronald Cleveland scored on a 4-yard run and the Falcons passed for a two-point conversion.
The Aztecs dramatically answered back with a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Agnew to tight end Parker Houston giving them a 21-17 lead. Key to the scoring drive was a 32-yard scramble by Agnew and a 32-yard pass from Agnew to receiver Kobe Smith — both converting third-down situations.
The Falcons got the ball back for one more chance with under four minutes left, but SDSU senior safety Parker Baldwin made a crucial interception on a second-down pass to secure the W.
“It was a huge play in the game,” Baldwin said. “It sealed the deal for us. I was just glad I bounced back from a play previously where I could have had an interception. I just kept playing hard. … Luckily, I got another chance and made up for that.”
SDSU rushed for only 84 yards on 34 carries. Jasmin led the way, carrying 18 times for 70 yards. True freshman Jordan Byrd (six carries, 6 yards) and redshirt freshman Kaegun Williams (four carries, 6 yards) both struggled for yards backing up Jasmin after he stood up after a run late in the fourth quarter looking slightly disoriented.
The victory over Air Force was not pretty, and both teams appeared sloppy in the late, rainy, lightning wrought game.
Still, a win is a win is a win. The banged up Aztecs are on a roll.
San Diego State, aiming for a ninth straight bowl game, become bowl eligible with their next win.
They face a winless San Jose State next week. Stay tuned.