The San Diego State Aztecs lost to the Utah Utes 35-7 in front of a sellout crowd of 51,602 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT. It was the 72nd consecutive sellout and the fourth largest crowd in the stadium’s history. The Aztecs drop to 1-2 on the season, while the Utes are now 2-1.
Utah quarterback Cameron Rising completed 18 of 30 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those came in the second quarter when the Utes broke a scoreless tie and took a 21-0 lead into halftime.
The storyline of the game for the Aztecs centers on the quarterback position. After starter Braxton Burmeister struggled early and was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with blurry vision from getting poked in his left eye, redshirt freshman Will Haskell came into the contest. Haskell was given one drive, a 3 and out, in which he completed his only pass attempt for one yard.
True freshman Kyle Crum replaced Haskell on the following drive for the rest of the game. Hoke said postgame that Crum and Haskell split reps during practice last week, adding the decision to put Crum in after Haskell’s one drive was made by him and offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklisnki.
“We felt that at that time … Kyle would give us the best opportunity.”
When pressed further about why Haskell was put in first and only given one drive, Hoke responded, “they had been competing all week. We thought Kyle gave us the best opportunity.”
Adding more intrigue to a position that has struggled this season, Hoke said, “we will determine that during the week,” when asked if Burmeister will be the starting QB if he is healthy.
Burmeister finished 1/4 for six yards, while Crum completed 5 of 16 passes for 53 yards and one interception. He also connected with Josh Nicholson on the Aztecs’ last drive of the game for his first career touchdown pass. Overall, the anemic offense totaled only 173 yards and ten first downs.
Starting running back Chance Bell did not make the trip for SDSU after suffering an injury to his left arm during last week’s game against Idaho State. Tight end Jay Rudolph missed his third consecutive game with an undisclosed injury.
SDSU shot themselves in the foot time and time again with nine penalties for 64 yards. Most of those penalties came from the offensive line with multiple false starts and holding penalties, especially on the first drives of each half.
“We knew coming into the stadium it was going to be loud,” senior center Alama Uluave said postgame. “I guess that kinda took us by shock a little bit, but we just got to be more disciplined and take away the penalties.”
“I wish I could explain it,” Hoke said when asked how the offense can start each half with multiple penalties. “Obviously, we wanted to be more disciplined, and we will be.”
For the second straight week, the Aztecs had a new starter in the secondary. After Davaughn Celestine started at field warrior in place of Cedarious Barfield last week, Dez Malone started at boundary cornerback for Noah Avinger. It was his first career start.
“He had a good week of practice,” said Hoke when asked about the decision to start Malone over Avinger. “He competed well. Out of those four guys that are competing, he’s one of the guys we have thought highly of.”
After the Aztecs’ defense held on the first four drives of the game, the Utes scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions. Davaughn Vele (2), Brant Kuithe, and Solomon Enis caught touchdown passes while running back Tavion Thomas rushed one in from 18 yards out.
“They got into sync and got into a rhythm,” said Hoke when asked how the tide turned in the second quarter for the Utes offense. “We have to tackle better, particularly in the first half. They are a good football team and made some good decisions.”
“As far as the d-line, we didn’t capitalize on some of the play calls that were entrusted to us, and that played a big key,” added senior defensive lineman Jonah Tavai.
Thomas led the Utes with 59 rushing yards on 16 carries, while backup Micah Bernard rushed for 44 yards. Kuithe added five catches for 64 yards. The Utes finished with 398 total yards.
After entering the season with the best win percentage against Pac-12 schools (minimum of six games played) since 2016, the Aztecs fall outside the top five in win percentage after losing both Pac-12 matchups to start this season. Their record against Pac-12 teams during that time is now 7-4.
“If this doesn’t hurt, I don’t know what does,” said Tavai when asked how the team is feeling after this loss.
“We knew they wanted to get back at us for what happened last year, and they showed up,” added Uluave. “We have to watch the film and grow from it.”
The Aztecs will look to even their record as they return home to play the Toledo Rockets (2-1) next Saturday at 12:30 pm PT at Snapdragon Stadium on FS1. It will be their final non-conference game before moving on to their eight-game Mountain West Conference schedule.