SDSU took the Aggies by the horns in a 38-7 win.
The first full moon on Halloween in 76 years in front of a three-quarters empty stadium during a global pandemic gave the eerie feeling to expect the unexpected as San Diego State took on Utah State in Logan, Utah. This was the first official road game of the season, but the second of eight regular seasons games where Aztecs will leave Montezuma Mesa to play away from America’s Finest City.
The first half followed the Hollow’s Eve script. With time expired in the second quarter, USU’s Quarterback, Jason Shelley, found Devin Thompkins for a 37 TD. The Aggies – starting the drive at their own 27-yard line, with 61 seconds and no time outs – put a sleeping spell on the Aztec defense. Utah State had only 29 passing yards before that drive but almost doubled it with all but 14 of their 73 yards coming through the air. The rest of the San Diego State team was just as jinxed and hexed in the first half. Sure-footed kicker, Matt Ariaza, missed two of three field goals; one was blocked. The offense, which never punted in the opening two quarters, drove the ball with ease until it sputtered deep in Aggie territory. In a half where SDSU dominated, they only led 10-7 at the intermission.
In the second half, however, Utah State’s voodoo ran out. Out gaining the Aggies 199 yards to six in the third quarter, the Men of Montezuma scored touchdowns on four straight possessions turning what had the making of a Trick into a Treat for the fans watching at home and the roughly 60 Aztec fans in the stadium. The game changed when SDSU’s Offensive Coordinator, Jeff Hecklinski, took a page out of his predecessor’s playbook, current running backs coach, Jeff Horton, and stopped passing the football.
Starting quarterback Carson Baker, making only his third start of his career, finished the game with 27 passing attempts. 21 of those attempts came in the first four possessions. Those possessions ended Missed FG, Touchdown, Missed FG, Turnover on Downs. The Touchdown sandwiched around a couple of missed field goals was a beautiful 15-yard pass to Kobe Smith, who led SDSU’s receiver with six receptions and 64 yards. From the 5th drive on, the Aztec offense only threw 6 more times officially; Baker scrambled a few additional times. The Aztecs were trying to take advantage of an Aggies secondary that gave up over ten yards a pass completion the week before to Boise State. They had mild success.
Whether by design or a mid-game change, SDSU turned its play-calling completely on its head. They rushed 10 times during the first four possessions and 43 times the rest of the way. Those possessions ended: field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, punt, end of the game. The star of the game was clearly Greg Bell. The running back from Bonita Vista High ran for 157 yards on 22. He also caught a TD pass from Baker, who masterfully used the play-action pass to scan the entire field beginning on his right, before coming all the way back to his left to find to G. Bell for the score. Chance Bell (no relation) had 98 yards on 10 carries, including a 27-yard scamper on 4th and inches. Utah State gambled and sent pressure up the middle, C. Bell bounced the run to the outside and ran down the sidelines unmolested for the score. C.Bell’s nearly ten yards per carry average would be impressive except his teammate, Jordan Byrd, had one rush for 73 yards. Chase Jasmin and Kaegan Williams added 26 and 23 yards, respectively. In total, SDSU ran for 407, 373 of those came from the last possession of the first half to the end of the game.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) November 1, 2020
San Diego State’s defense – the nation’s leading defense in points allowed per game since the start of last season – was smothering all night. Most impressively, the Aztec defense dominated in an entirely different way than they did the week before. Last week against UNLV, SDSU lived in the Rebels backfield with fourteen tackles for loss and five sacks. It was clear from the start Utah State was attacking the Aztecs differently. They spread the ball around, had quicker developing run plays, and fewer passes. This resulted in SDSU finishing with only one sack and four tackles for loss. But the results were nearly the same. Aside from one possession in each game where the defense inexplicably fell apart, this defense has been the silver bullet to pierce the heart of opposing offenses.