San Diego State Recap: Aztecs Crawl Back to Win in 3OT, Beat Utah Utes 33-31
The Aztecs luck do not run out, and now the Pac-12 South runs through Carson.
The Aztecs caught lucky breaks late in the game to defeat the Utah Utes , 33-31 and claiming their second straight Pac-12 opponent.
UTES 2-PT CONVERSION IS NO GOOD!
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) September 19, 2021
Jordon Brookshire was ruled out for this game and Lucas Johnson got his chance to start another football game. The play-calling was conservative and Johnson’s passes weren’t accurate, ending with a stat line of 10-for-19 for 44 yards and 1 touchdown. His numbers paled in comparison to Brookshire’s stats against Arizona last week.
A familiar theme of slow starts continues to haunt the Aztecs. San Diego State’s offense did not reach the Red Zone until the 3rd quarter and recorded 6 punts in the first quarter alone. The meeting of the two former Mountain West foes featured strong defenses and at times felt like mirror images. Early mistakes for both teams came on special teams, where the Aztecs gave up an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by Britain Covey. Fortunately for the Aztecs, Jordan Byrd exposed the Utes’ kickoff coverage and took back a 100-yard kickoff return to the house.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 19, 2021
It was a 10-10 tie going into the half.
The second half played to San Diego State’s offensive strengths to run the ball with intensity. The offensive line was getting stronger and the holes and gaps were widening enough to get Greg Bell going, where Bell ended the day with a workload of 33 carries for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns.
.@taylerhawkinsss with a great read for the interception!
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) September 19, 2021
The Aztecs were able to record a takeaway against Charlie Brewer when Tayler Hawkins was able to pick off a pass and return the ball to the Utah 7-yard line. From there, the Aztecs handed it off for a Greg Bell touchdown and Brady Hoke’s Aztecs were cruising 24-10.
Utah Made Better Adjustments
Utah made it close by switching quarterbacks from Charlie Brewer to Cameron Rising. Before getting pulled, Brewer had completed 14-of-26 with 104 yards and 1 interception. The Ute offense went uptempo and Rising was able to spread his receivers and expose San Diego State’s corners. Cameron Rising was able to go 19-of-32 for 153 and record 3 touchdown passes.
The late switch to Rising flustered the Aztecs’ defense as they were dominating Brewer’s shortcomings. To make up for weaknesses, they had to drop more into zone coverages instead of getting pressure on Rising. The Utah quarterback had more time to go over the top and beat Aztec corners and hit wide-open receivers.
After converting a 10-play 63-yard drive in the fourth quarter, Rising hit Britain Covey for a 2-yard touchdown pass, getting the score to 24-16. Utah missed the ensuing PAT, and it was the kind of luck the Aztecs needed on Saturday night.
The Aztecs continue to lose their killer instinct going into the final minutes of the game and left the door wide open for a Utah comeback. Matt Araiza missed a 48-yard field goal attempt to keep it 24-10, and sure-handed Greg Bell fumbled the ball on the San Diego State 31-yard line with 10:50 left in the game.
Regardless of the mistakes, the energized Utah Utes were closing gaps faster and rallying to the running backs. They were bending on 1st and 2nd down, but the Utah defense was holding their own on 3rd down. The last two Aztec 4th quarter possessions resulted in punts, and no
Utah preyed on a gassed San Diego State defense and scored with their 2-minute offense getting the score to 22-24 with a must-have 2-point conversion. With Theo Howard recording the tying conversion amongst confused Aztecs secondary, the Utes made their comeback and were playing to win in OT.
New Life In OT
With their first OT possession, the Aztecs went to the air and got to the 2-yard line in two plays thanks to a defensive pass interference in the endzone. Lucas Johnson was able to throw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jay Rudolph and the momentum started to shift again to the Aztecs. On the ensuing Utah possession, they went for it one swoop and scored again on a 25-yard pass over the San Diego State secondary and tied the game at 31-31.
The second OT had Utah starting from the 25-yard line only to face a renewed San Diego State pass defense and gifted possession to the Aztecs as the Utes missed their 36-yard field attempt, pushed right like their failed 4th quarter PAT. With the game on the line, San Diego State played conservatively with three consecutive rushes. In a game that was never guaranteed for the Aztecs, a rare 36-yard miss from Matt Araiza pushed the game to a third OT, keeping a 31-31 game.
With the new OT rules in place, instead of multiple attempts from the 25-yard line, teams must convert 2-point conversions from the 2-yard line. The Aztecs stalling on their previous possession might have been saved by this rule change. The game-winning play call went out of the box and featured trickery where running back Jordan Matthews completed the scoring pass to an open Lucas Johnson in the end zone.
To close out the game, the defense forced Cameron Rising to get rid of the ball quickly which forced his receiver to overstretch his hands and not get under the ball before hitting the ground. At first, Utah converted, and upon review, the ball was not secured by the receiver. The lucky little Aztecs did it again and now the Pac-12 South runs through Carson.
The Aztecs wrap up their non-conference slate next week by hosting FCS Towson Tigers.