San Diego State Recap: Aztecs Gamble Big and Beat UNLV, 28-20.

San Diego State Recap: Aztecs Gamble Big and Beat UNLV, 28-20.

San Diego State

San Diego State Recap: Aztecs Gamble Big and Beat UNLV, 28-20.

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San Diego State Recap: Aztecs Gamble Big and Beat UNLV, 28-20.


The gritty little Aztecs eeked out a win in the waning minutes of the 4th quarter.


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San Diego State went to Las Vegas with the goal of winning a conference championship and in the driver’s seat for a berth in the title game. They came in with a proven formula of a dominant running game and strong defense.

But San Diego State offense looked different under the Vegas lights. Through the first half, they only rushed 32 yards and kept senior Greg Bell out of the end zone. The Aztecs remained committed to keeping their bell cow going, yet there might be something to Greg Bell’s lingering injuries that are keeping him from accelerating through the gaps.

Saturday night’s victory was won off of Hoke taking his luck on Lucas Johnson’s arm.

Johnson had one of his most productive days as a quarterback completing 18-of-24 for 192 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception.

One on the final drive of the first half, the Aztecs had a 4th and 2 at the UNLV 46 with 31 seconds to go. A Matt Araiza field goal would be a stretch at that distance, and punting would be a moot point against a UNLV offense that has picked apart the Aztec secondary.

Hoke doubled down and Lucas Johnson delivered a 9-yard pass to BJ Busbee. Johnson hit Elijah Kothe for 13 yards on the next play getting the Aztecs to the 24. An Araiza field goal is guaranteed money within 50 yards, but Hoke bet one more time and Johnson delivered a touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews to end the half up 11.

They say defense wins championships, but the Aztec defense didn’t look champion-like in the first half.

Freshman Cameron Friel led the game-opening drive 72 yards to the Aztecs 3-yard line. Given the San Diego State defense did not give up a touchdown, a forced UNLV to settle for a field goal.

Cameron Friel was accurate and made 5-of-6 until linebacker Andrew Aleki caught a tipped interception and ran it back 17 yards for a touchdown.

After the pick 6, an energized Aztec defense started to lock in and found lanes to get to Friel. The Aztecs defense was able to get pressure on the freshman quarterback and one by Keshawn Banks sack got him out of the game. UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo was forced to play Justin Rogers off the bench cold.

The junior Rogers went off for 15-of-21 for 305 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Once Rogers came in and found Charles Williams on a wheel route for 36 yards, it was a bad run of luck for San Diego State. Arroyo called a fake bubble screen which confused the Aztecs defense and Rogers hit Zyell Griffin for 43 yards and a touchdown on a mental collapse.

Justin Rogers was making pro-level throws and threading needles, getting out from their own 6-yard line with an 80-yard pass completion to Steve Jenkins. The Rebel offense was finding the inefficiencies of the Aztec’s pass defense.

The defense gave up 394 yards of total offense but was able to keep leading rusher Charles Williams out of the endzone and under 100 yards.

San Diego State went into the 4th quarter with a slim lead of 21-20, where the Aztecs have held a 22-game winning streak while holding leads into the final quarter of the game.

The men from the Montezuma Mesa rallied after a Lucas Johnson interception. The defense rose up and forced UNLV to punt on two consecutive possessions.

On the final UNLV possession, the Aztecs were able to run away with a victory to a no-call offsides penalty on the Rebels’ final drive. Linebacker Banks appeared to be offside on a 4th and 4 which would have extended the drive and nullified a Seyddrick Lakalaka interception.

The Aztecs might have benefitted from a no-call, but since a personal foul penalty was also called on the play, these penalties would have merely offset and replay the down. Not a guarantee for either team, but San Diego State had been better at closing games. Hoke would have likely let it ride with his defense.

Up next the Aztecs take on Boise State in Carson with a Mountain West title berth on the line for the team from San Diego.

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