Jordon Brookshire turned in one of the best performances by an Aztec QB in a decade. He was accurate, poised, and in complete command Saturday. Much of his damage was done on screens in which he showed remarkable timing. A moment too early or too late, and the results would have been different. The entire offense ran through Brookshire. He was the most dangerous player on the field.
Running Back: A+
SDSU’s tailbacks combined for 262 yards on 41 carries. Jordan Byrd averaged 9.5 yards on his two carries. Greg Bell averaged 7.3 yards, followed by Chance Bell’s 5.2, Kaegun Williams’ 4.7, and Jaylon Armstead’s 4.3. In some ways, the yardage gained by G. Bell’s understudies were more impressive since they came when SDSU had basically abandoned passing the football. Following the game, G. Bell said the box might be lightened in future games because of the emergence of the passing game. It is a promising thought that this group can be even better.
Wide Receivers: B –
Four of Brookshire’s ten completions went to his wideouts. Add in a couple of penalties drawn, and the receivers had an effective game. There was still a drop and slip, some confusion on routes, but they did what was needed to provide a complement to the rushing attack. SDSU’s receivers played key roles on special teams as well.
Tight Ends: A+
Saturday was Daniel Bellinger’s coming-out party. He took a pair of short passes and turned them into huge gains, and he also caught a pass outside the numbers using his size to create a mismatch. SDSU utilized two and three tight end sets. As a unit, Bellinger, along with Jay Rudolph and Aaron Greene, were superb at blocking in the run game and bringing physicality to the contest.
Offensive Line: A-
The line was dominant Saturday. William Dunkle is a difference-maker in every sense of the word. He simply manhandled the competition. Chris Martinez has built off of his playing time from a year ago. Team captain Zach Thomas has switched to blindside tackle with ease. The line is playing at a high level with the caveat that they have yet to play a high caliber, opposing defense.
Defensive Line: A+
Another game, another dominant performance by the signature position for head coach Brady Hoke. Rocky Long called Hoke the best defensive line coach in America. Normally, it is at the line of scrimmage where Group of Five Teams are at a disadvantage, but with Hoke supporting defensive line coach Jordan Thomas, the line is the clear strength of the team. Their entire rotation is producing.
With the defensive line playing at a high level, the linebackers have more freedom to make plays, and the unit is producing. Saturday, they combined for five tackles for loss, including three sacks. Their speed, strength, and superior tackling gave the Wildcats fits. Arizona counted on yards after the catch to move the ball, but the defense led by the linebackers nearly shut that down.
Noah Tumblin and Noah Avinger filled in nicely for Dallas Branch opposite Tayler Hawkins for a second consecutive game. Hawkins continues to grow. His tackling was fantastic Saturday, and he simply looks like a dominant player for this defense. The group lost a grade because of a few missed opportunities, but the way Patrick McMorris, Trenton Thompson, and Cedarious Barfield are playing at safety, the unit has shown very little drop off from last season.
Special Teams: A+
Postgame, Coach Hoke praised the effort of this group, and for good reason. Kaegun Williams was named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week for his blocked punt, Matt Araiza was dynamite in all three of his roles, and the coverage teams excelled. Special teams coach Doug Deakin deserves a lot of credit. The first two games this season are the best the units have looked since Bobby Hauck left in 2017.
Kurt Mattix once again had a great game plan. He adds wrinkles every week that make it difficult on opposing offenses. The story, though, of the Arizona game is the emergence of the passing game. Jeff Hecklinski has built this offense, never wavering from his belief in it. His group was successful in plays they practiced often throughout camp. It was only one game, but Hecklinski has received a lot of criticism in San Diego. He deserves a tip of the hat this week.
Next opportunity: A-
SDSU has an opportunity to enter the national picture with a win over Utah. The game lost some luster with the Utes loss last week, but a second win against a Pac-12 opponent would position the Aztecs as one of the top Group of Five teams in the young season.