Aztecs blown out by Bruins, 35-10, in first loss of season

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs (2-1) lost for the first time this season, 35-10, to the UCLA Bruins (2-0). 

In front of an energetic and fired-up crowd of 32,017 (the biggest of the season at Snapdragon Stadium), the Aztecs hoped to show the national CBS primetime audience that it belonged in a Power 5 Conference. 

It was clear by halftime that it was not in the same class yet, struggling to defend UCLA’s offense and block their defense. 

“Really disappointed in our coaching,” said SDSU head coach Brady Hoke postgame. “Disappointed in how we reacted in situations. We didn’t play as well as we are capable. I give them credit. They are a good football team.”

The Bruins came into the contest insisting that all three quarterbacks in the competition would play. True freshman Dante Moore started the game and played the entire first three quarters. Kent State transfer Collin Schlee (who did not play in the opener) relieved Moore in the 4th quarter to close the game.  

Moore shredded the Aztecs’ defense, completing 17 of 27 passes for 290 yards and 3 TDs. Two hundred twenty-seven of those were part of the Bruins’ 358 yards in the first half alone. They finished with 550 for the game.  

T.J. Harden and Carson Steele rushed for 91 and 84 yards, respectively, as part of a 254-yard effort on the ground. The Aztecs’ defense was 23rd in the country through two weeks, only allowing 68 rushing yards per game coming into the contest. 

Star WR J. Michael Sturdivant was held in check with only two catches for 23 yards, but Moore was able to find open receivers all over the field. WR Logan Loya led the Bruins with four receptions (for 77 yards). 

“I’m a little surprised; I would be lying if I wasn’t,” said Hoke when asked about his defense’s breakdowns. “I also know that some of the youth that we have, especially up front, but at the same point, that’s not an excuse. We have to play better, we have to tackle better. Too many yards after contact, and that’s discouraging.”

QB Jalen Mayden only completed 19 of 37 passes for 196 yards, one TD, and his first three INTs of the season (all in the 2nd half). 

Credit: PJ Panebianco/ EVT Sports

“He was trying too hard to make a play,” said Hoke about the second-half INTs. “Trying too hard to make something happen.”

WR Mekhi Shaw had his best game of the season, catching five passes for 54 yards and his 1st TD of the season (4th career).

The 28th-best rush offense (219.50 ypg) was held to only 63 (on 33 carries) by the UCLA defense. Kenan Christon’s 16-yard run was the longest by any Aztec player. 

The Aztecs’ starting defense made two changes. New Zealand Williams replaced Cody Moon at WILL LB, and TCU transfer Deshawn Mccuin replaced Davaughn Celestine at boundary warrior safety. Moon and Williams rotated throughout the game. 

“We thought we needed to mix it up back there,” said Hoke when asked about the insertion of Mccuin.

It didn’t make much of an impact. 

“We’ll evaluate the film, and it may look different next week,” added Hoke. “The evaluation process needs to be even better than it was.”

After the teams were unable to move the ball and punted on each of their first two drives, both scored touchdowns on their third drives. 

The Bruins only needed one play, an 81-yard catch and run by Moore to Josiah Norwood. Safety Marcus Ratcliffe bit on the fake handoff, opening the middle of the field for Norwood.

The Aztecs needed nine plays to answer. A Mayden (5/6 for 68 yards on the drive) to Shaw back-shoulder-pass from the 21-yd line tied the game at 7. 

Unfortunately for the Aztecs, the Bruins took control of the game in the 2nd quarter and scored TDs on three of their next four possessions, while the Aztecs only mustered a 44-yd field goal by Jack Browning for a halftime deficit of 28-10. 

Credit: PJ Panebianco/ EVT Sports

Steele scored from 13 yards out on a 4th and 1 play to start the 2nd quarter. CB Dez Malone had the roughest three-play stretch of his career against Sturdivant during the drive. 

Play 1: Defensive pass interference

Play 2: missed tackle on a short catch by Sturdivant, leading to 12 yards and a first down.

Play 3: Defensive pass interference

Harden, the other half of the Bruins’ dynamic backfield duo, broke free for a 59-yard TD run on the next UCLA possession. Moore then connected with Loya for a 24-yard TD pass as the Bruins went no-huddle, and nobody in the Aztecs’ secondary picked up Loya at the snap. 

“We just didn’t execute the way we should have,” said LB Zyrus Fiaseu postgame. “Everybody makes assignment errors. I make assignment errors. Especially next week, we just got to minimize those. It’s all mental; nothing is physical. There are no physical mistakes right now. Something that we can get taken care of.”

Browning’s field goal came one play after the Aztecs thought they had a TD of their own. A beautiful pass from Mayden to the end zone was dropped by a wide-open Josh Nicholson. 

The Aztecs thought they had recovered a fumble by Moore in the end zone for a defensive touchdown to cut the lead to 11 in the 3rd quarter. Fiaseu blitzed off Moore’s blind side and forced the fumble, and LB Trey White landed on the ball on the goal line. The officials initially ruled it a TD, but replay overturned it, claiming White’s knee was down as he first touched the ball just short of the goal line. 

On the ensuing possession from the 1, the first two plays were failed run attempts by Jaylon Armstead and Martin Blake. On 3rd down, the Aztecs decided to spread it out and threw a quick pass to Blake with his momentum leading him into the end zone. Instead, the pass went through Blake’s hands, off his helmet, and into the hands of UCLA LB Darius Muasau in the end zone for the pick. 

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UCLA drove 80 yards on 12 plays, and Moore’s 3rd TD pass of the game (to Carsen Ryan) put the game out of reach at 35-10 with 2:05 remaining in the 3rd quarter. 

Neither team committed a turnover in the 1st half, but the teams combined for five in the 2nd half. 

The Aztecs’ defense came into the game, leading the country with six INTs but had yet to force or recover a fumble. They recovered two in the 2nd half but did not record an INT. 

Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT Sports

Fiaseu led the Aztecs with 12 tackles. He added a sack, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. DE Daniel Okpoko led with two tackles for loss. 

Alex Johnson led the Bruins with 2 INTs. Muasau added six tackles and three for loss to go with his INT in the end zone. Oluwafemi Oladejo’s ten tackles paced the Bruins, and star edge rusher Laiatu Latu added 2.5 tackles for loss. 

Senior RT Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson returned to the starting lineup after a two-game suspension. Myles Murao moved over from RT to RG. 

WR Phillippe Wesley (2 rec, 25 yards) also made his first appearance of the season after missing the first two games due to injury. 

Backup QB Tobin O’Dell relieved Mayden on the final drive of the game, completing his only pass attempt to Cam Davis for zero yards. 

The Bruins improved their series record against the Aztecs to 22-1-1.

After winning seven of their last nine games against the Pac-12 heading into the 2022 season, the Aztecs have lost the last three. They will have a chance to end that streak next Saturday when they travel to Corvallis, OR to, to play the Oregon State Beavers. 

“We got to learn from this one because next week is just as difficult,” said Hoke. “We got to get better this week. We have to make sure that we are all on the same page, and we got to play better, and we got to coach better.”

Hoke paused before adding, “Coach better, then play better.” 

Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. 

2 thoughts on “Aztecs blown out by Bruins, 35-10, in first loss of season

  1. Pains me to say it, but we need a QB that can complete a pass. I cannot remember a time in recent memory the defense got totally manhandled at the line of scrimmage as UCLA just ran all over the defense.

    1. Yes, a lot to improve on both sides of the ball this week and traveling to play a top 15 team on the road is a scary proposition. Thanks for reading.

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