Aztecs Wrecked 46-13 By Aggies In Conference Championship Rout
Hours before the game SDSU announced 20 Aztecs including Daniel Bellinger, Tyrell Shavers and Desmond Bessent would be sidelined.
What a disaster for the Aztecs.
Carson, CA – The Utah State Aggies are your 2021 Mountain West Conference Champions, after a dominant victory over the West Division Champion San Diego State Aztecs 46-13.
There were approximately 6,000 witnesses to the slaughter at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday. The Aztecs sought a 22nd conference victory on Saturday, and their first conference win in five seasons since going back-to-back in 2015-16. Now they will have to wait at least one or more additional seasons.
The Utah State Aggies’ transformation from last season to this season has been absolutely remarkable. What a difference new coach Blake Anderson and new quarterback Logan Bonner made in 2021. Both were a part of Arkansas State last year, but thanks to the transfer portal- they are leading Utah State this year. The team that previously lost to the Aztecs 12 out of their 13 all time matches, including a 38-7 Aztecs rout last year last year, is now on top of the mountain.
Entering the game the then 11-1 San Diego State Aztecs were experiencing their best football season over the program’s entire 99 year history. Given Utah State’s minor issues, it appeared that this game would be more than manageable, considering SDSU’s strong defense, and Utah State’s smaller front line. Instead, the team that entered the field did not look like the Aztecs we watched all season. They didn’t look much like the Aztecs at all.
Just an hour before the game, news broke that approximately 20 Aztec football players were not in attendance due to Covid protocol, including many starters. That absence approximated one third of SDSU’s roster. Suddenly, a handful top stars were out. The three top tight ends, two key wide receivers, the center, and other key linemen were out of the game. Like an orchestra missing its horns, percussion and a few strings- it became immediately evident that the symphony was not making proper music.
Case in point: Daniel Bellinger and other tight ends are normally utilized to clear the path for running backs including Greg Bell, Chance Bell and Kaegun Williams. Bellinger and both of his backups were all sidelined, and other back-up linemen tried to fill the void.
During the entire game, Greg Bell rushed for just 50 yards, and came short of 1000 yards for the season as a result. In contrast, last year Bell ran for 157 yards against the Aggies.
Nor did it help that tight end Bellinger and wide receiver Tyrell Shavers were quarterback Jordan Brookshire’s top two targets- both sidelined.
Aztecs head coach Brady Hoke was completely surprised that, after nearly two seasons of generally trouble-free play during Covid, this time the team found itself compromised.
Now it isn’t fair to say that sidelined Aztecs were the culprit. That would not dignify Logan Bonner’s excellent performance. He went 29-for-42, threw 318 yards, and 4 touchdowns passes.
So how did it go so wrong? In the 1st quarter on 4th and 1 at the Utah State 12 yard line, the Aztecs squandered an easy opportunity to put the first points on the board with an easy field goal, when Brady Hoke instead went for first down. Greg Bell tried to rush, and got flattened in a menacing tackle for loss, leading to a turn over on downs.
Even special teams struggled. Leg of steel Matt Araiza had his kick blocked setting up the Aggies on their own 47 yard line, and then they went 53 yards on 10 plays. On a 5-yard pass from Logan Bonner to Derek Wright, Utah State scored and once it became 7-0 the Aggies never once found themselves contested for the lead during the rest of the game.
SDSU’s next possession faltered and Araiza just missed a 54-yard field that went slightly right at the very last second. This put the Aggies on their own 37 yard line. They scored six plays later on a 1-yard run by Calvin Tyler that made it 14-0.
During the game, the Aztecs were charged with six personal fouls, which is just unacceptable. Both of Utah State’s first half scoring drives were helped by 15-yard personal foul penalties on SDSU defensemen
The best the scoreless Aztecs could do was to kick a short field goal just before halftime, making it 14-3.
Two minutes into the third quarter, Logan Bonner’s 58-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bowling widened the Aggies’ lead to 21-3. This genuinely marked the moment that Aztecs fans began to panic and realize the game was entering a downslide.
The Aztecs then went three-and-out after returning the following kickoff. On fourth down, Araiza’s blockers were pushed into him, deflecting his punt, which was then recovered for safety. It then unbelievably became 23-3.
After some back and forth, Araiza made another field goal after the Aztecs had squandered additional opportunities to score touchdowns. 23-6.
The Aggies scored twice more, bringing it to 39-6 before Aztecs freshman backup quarterback Jalen Maden connected with Jesse Matthews for touchdown, bringing it to 39-13.
The Aggies scored again to conclude the game with a final score of 46-13.
For the Aztecs and their fans, it was an ugly, ugly loss that could not have possibly gone worse.
Painfully evident is that the team who played this past Saturday in no way resembled the team that scored three unanswered touchdowns against Boise State the week prior.
Who’s to say that a fully populated Aztecs team could have beaten the red-hot Aggies? Utah State played a near- flawless game, despite the Aztecs blowing four interception opportunities aside from the one they made. In the end, the Aggies were the best team on the gridiron on Saturday by a long shot.
According to Brady Hoke, “There’s a lot of football teams that would like to be 11-2. We’d rather be 12-1, but that’s where we’re at right now.” He is right, and despite this harsh finish, the Aztecs had a remarkable season.
Congratulations to Utah State on its first Conference Championship win.
The Aztecs will regroup, then return to good health and face off against the UTSA Roadrunners in the Frisco Bowl. While it isn’t the Jimmy Kimmel L.A. Bowl, it should be a formidable match against a 12-1 opponent.