Most important player for the Aztecs in 2021: Matt Araiza


Credit: EVT Sports

Credit: EVT Sports

More than any of the other seven contests, last year’s season finale against BYU is the best example of how SDSU would like to play on offense.

The Aztecs had a sizable advantage in time of possession (36:43 to 23:17) and number of plays from scrimmage (78 to 55). They were balanced on offense (230 yards passing to 169 yards rushing), and their play call distribution was where they wanted it with the weather conditions factored in (47 rushes to 31 passes). SDSU kept the chains moving on third down (10 of 17) and only punted twice the entire night.

On the other hand, the game also showed what can go wrong with this approach.

If drives are designed to eat up the game clock, big plays are harder to manufacture. Only four of SDSU’s 78 plays went for more than 20 yards (5% of their plays). BYU had five plays over 20 yards in 23 fewer attempts (9% of their plays).  The Cougars scored touchdowns on all their four trips to the red zone. SDSU only scored once total in their four tries.

This dynamic was on display again during Fall Camp.

In scrimmage one, the offense scored on each trip inside the red zone and during situational drills. All but one resulted in a touchdown. Scrimmage two brought a different result. The team failed to score on two of their trips – one a missed field goal, the other on an interception. They managed to find points on their other tries, but all were field goals. The only touchdown of the scrimmage was on Jaylon Armstead’s 62-yard run.

When the Aztecs dominate in the red zone by scoring touchdowns, they are a very dangerous team. When they fail to do so, they make games closer than they should be. Junior Matt Araiza is number four on the countdown of most important players because special teams always loom large when there is little separation on the scoreboard.

Can SDSU win close games?

Credit: Twitter @r_y_z_2

With only four days remaining until the start of the 2021 season, EVT is counting down the most important players to the high-end success of the team. Yesterday, number five on the list, Warrior Safety Trenton Thompson was revealed. Today, the celebration continues!

A hometown hero out of local Rancho Bernardo High, Araiza arrived on the Mesa in 2018 and went to work after a redshirt season. He set a school record for field goals made in a season with 22 and was called on to make a field goal in each of his first 17 games as an Aztec.

He enters 2021 first on the depth chart at Kicker, Punter, and Kickoff Specialist. A bad day by SDSU’s kicker in any of the phases he contributes in, and that could result in a loss. Conversely, when Araiza is booming kickoffs through the end zone, pinning teams inside the 20, or using his powerful leg to make field goals outside of the range of most, he is a weapon few teams possess.

If the Aztecs are going to win ugly this year, they will depend on their #2 to lead them, which makes Matt Araiza number four on our list of most important players. 

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Paul Garrison
My earliest sport's memory involve tailgating at the Murph, running down the circular exit ramps, and seeing the Padres, Chargers and Aztecs play. As a second generation Aztec, I am passionate about all things SDSU. Other interests include raising my four children, being a great husband and teaching high school.
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