SDSU offense scores in bunches during Fan Fest Scrimmage

Mark Redman leaps over a tackler at Fan Fest (PJ Panebianco/EVT)

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Jaliel Jackson meets Lucky Sutton in the backfield for a tackle for loss. (Don De Mars/EVT

San Diego State football held its annual Fan Fest at Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday night. In addition to the seniors signing autographs for fans at the conclusion of the evening, the team held a scrimmage.

Unlike the Spring Game, where the entire team was split into Team Aztec or Team Warrior, in this scrimmage, the offensive units took turns against the defensive units.  

“It’s exactly what we wanted, to be in this stadium, to be competitive and wanted to be in a lot of different situations, and we accomplished that,” said head coach Brady Hoke following the scrimmage. 

The starting offense took the first two drives of the game down the field and scored on 14-yard passing touchdowns by Jalen Mayden. The first went to Mekhi Shaw, and the second to Phillippe Wesley. Both were easy throws short of the end zone that required the receiver to break a tackle near the five and race past the goal line. 

The first touchdown was aided by a 45-yard completion from Mayden to Brionne Penny on the first play of the game. Mayden said post-scrimmage that offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley asked him what play he wanted to run first, and Mayden wanted to take a deep shot. 

Mekhi Shaw breaks a tackle on his way to the end zone. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Mayden also surmised that the success of the offense in tonight’s scrimmage to last Saturday’s was a result of playing more and having consecutive drives to get into a rhythm with less scripted action. Last week, the first string played one drive and came off the field for the second string on the next one. 

“Being able to feel the flow of the game and get more reps,” he explained. “It’s hard to get three plays and get off the field.”

When asked how his command of the offense has improved from the start of camp to tonight, Mayden responded, “I’m light years ahead of where I was two weeks ago.”

Overall, Mayden completed 14 of 26 passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Kenan Christon led the way with 77 rushing yards on 13 carries, and Jaylon Armstead added 52 yards on 14 carries.

The offense did not score a touchdown for the remainder of the first half but gave up two to the defense. 

On the third drive of the game, backup quarterback Kyle Crum rolled to his left and looked to get a throw over the oncoming defender but instead dropped the ball on the ground. Defensive end Dom Oliver picked it up and ran it back 18 yards for the touchdown. 

Later in the first half, walk-on quarterback Tobin O’Dell backed up in his own end zone, threw a pass to the right flat, and cornerback Noah Tumblin jumped it and took the interception 13 yards for a touchdown. 

Kenan Christon made Vai Kaho miss in the open field. (PJ Panebianco/EVT)

The offense mustered two field goals in the half as Jack Browning nailed a 37-yarder and Gabriel Plascencia knocked in a 32-yarder. Browning missed a 49-yarder on a later drive. 

With Mayden back under center, the offense took the ball down the field, but his only turnover on the night thwarted the drive. Mayden attempted a fade route to Penny in the end zone, but the underthrown pass was intercepted by cornerback Dez Malone near the two-yard line. 

On the ensuing drive, Mayden utilized the “next-play mentality” that Lindley preached all spring and summer and scored a touchdown on a 13-yard bootleg run to his left.

“I’m still working on it,” said Mayden referring to that mentality. “Especially in the red zone, you can’t have turnovers. Coach always says we need to finish with a kick, whether it be a field goal or touchdown PAT.”

Browning connected on a 43-yard field goal later in the third quarter to give the offense 29 points before situational drives were enacted the rest of the game, resulting in 23 additional points.   

Jaylon Armstead rushed for a 5-yd score, Mark Redman caught Mayden’s third touchdown pass of the night from six yards out, and Jay Rudolph caught a 12-yard touchdown from DJ Ralph. Plascencia made a 34-yard field goal to close out the scoring.

The starting offensive line saw a new member from what had previously been seen during fall camp practices. Washington transfer Myles Murao, who had been running at right guard with the second unit, played right tackle with the first string. During open portions of practice to media, Murao had not taken a snap at tackle with the Aztecs. The remaining four starters (Christian Jones, Cade Bennett, Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli, and Dean Abdullah) were in line with previous scrimmages.

The offensive line played well in the scrimmage. (PJ Panebianco/EVT)

On a later drive with Mayden, the line shuffled as Murao moved to RG, Drew Azzopardi played RT, and Dean Abdullah slid to LT. 

Hoke attributed the shifting and new roles as a way for the staff to find the best five guys to comprise the starting offensive line. He credited Murao for having a good camp and someone who is versatile and can play multiple positions. 

On defense, super senior Daniel Okpoko started at DE alongside Wyatt Draeger as Garret Fountain continues to rehab a right arm/elbow injury. 

Cody Moon, who has been competing with Brady Anderson at WILL LB, started and played with the first unit and made several big plays behind the line of scrimmage, leading to a team-high 2.5 tackles for loss (and ten total tackles).

“I feel like I made some good plays out there, but I also feel like there’s a lot of room to improve,” said Moon post-scrimmage. “I felt like there were a couple of plays I left out on the field. I just need to work on my technique, and I’ll be ready to go by (the game against Ohio).”

Moon also said that his progression in the defense from where he was at the start of camp to now has been immense. 

“I am a lot more comfortable (now),” he explained. “I found myself a little hesitant when it came to pass coverages at the beginning of fall camp. Now I am playing a whole lot faster. It’s almost like (I know) it like the back of my hand.”

True freshman defensive end Brady Nassar led the team with two sacks.

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True freshman wide receiver Baylon Brooks led the team with 59 receiving yards (on three catches) and looked to be finally healthy since a minor injury during the first practice kept it from contact for most of fall camp. 

“He’s a guy that is going to help us,” said Hoke when asked about Brooks’ play tonight. 

Shaw and Cam Davis led the team with five receptions each. 

LB Zyrus Fiaseu and S Kyron White, who have been missing from practice over the past week, did not dress. Neither did DL Darrion Dalton and CB Josh Goynes.

Lucky Sutton ran the ball twice on a series of down in the second quarter but looked hobbled as he ran out of bounds on the dual carry and did not return. 

Five of the team’s six quarterbacks received snaps on the evening. Redshirt freshman Liu Aumavae was the only one who did not. When asked about who his backup quarterback is, Hoke was unsure.

“We’ll find out,” he remarked. “I don’t think we know yet.” 

The Aztecs’ first game of the season is two weeks from tonight against the Ohio Bobcats at Snapdragon Stadium. Kickoff is at 4 pm.

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