SDSU’s running attack tops Hawaii 34-10

SDSU Athletics

Credit: SDSU Aztecs

The Aztecs stuck to their bread and butter in a 34-10 victory over the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors. The running game lead the offense, and the defense absolutely shut down Hawai’i.

The game started with very little fireworks or glamour. Each team struggled even to get first downs. In the game’s first six possessions, only three total first downs were recorded between the two teams. All six of those possessions ended with a punt, having never reached the other teams’ side of the field.

Then SDSU’s running game got their wheels. Jesse Matthews managed to get 16 yards on a punt return to put SDSU at their own 49. That set up Jordan Byrd to run all 51 yards for a touchdown.

Matt Ariza kicked the extra point to make it a 7-0 game.

The Aztec defense continued to torment the Rainbow Warriors. The moment they got onto the SDSU side of the field, Seyddrick Lakalaka forced a fumble that Hawai’i recovered on the 50. This forced yet another punt.

Now it was Greg Bell’s time to one-up Byrd. In just one play, G. Bell ran 62 yards to get into the endzone. The running game just owned this game for SDSU. G. Bell showed his athletic ability by shedding tackles and adapting mid-play to find yardage. While that would be his longest run of the game, he still was lights out. Over 19 carries, he averaged 8.4 yards leading SDSU.

Hawai’i, up to this point, was sloppy. The defense was getting to them quickly, and they had no response to it. Many third-down plays saw quarterback Chevan Cordeiro scrambling out the pocket. That typically ended in an incompletion or a snuffed out rush attempt. In total, they were 3-for-17 on third-down attempts.

Even when the Hawai’i defense stopped SDSU, they just couldn’t put it all together. They managed to stop them from three straight scoring drives to force a punt. On the return, Aztec Kyron White hit the ball out of Melquise Stovall. The Aztecs recovered on the Hawai’i 13 yard line. Three straight G. Bell rushing attempts gave the Aztecs another touchdown.

Halfway through the second quarter, SDSU had the ball again on their own 18. A pass to Chance Bell advanced them 14 yards. They then handed him the ball for a 27-yard rushing gain to get them onto the Hawai’i 43. Once C. Bell was stopped; they went back to the air. Baker missed his target and placed it perfectly in a defender’s hands for an interception and end to the strong drive.

Baker was hoping to bounce back after failing to throw a touchdown and recording one interception in the last game. Despite those poor figures, in that game, he did pass for a career-high of 261 yards, which shattered his previous record of 172 yards. That type of yardage-production was not found in this game. He passed for 30 yards over his four completions all game. In that time, he also gave up two interceptions. It got to the point that backup Lucas Johnson was playing later in the game.

Luckily for Baker, he plays on a team with a lights-out defense. The Rainbow Warriors took advantage of the momentum gained with the interception. Cordeiro had multiple solid rushes in the drive and a 33-yard pass to get to the SDSU 35. That’s when Segun Olubi intercepted Cordeiro and returned it all 71 yards for a pick-six. That would be all of significance for the first half of play.

Over their five drives in the second half, SDSU possessed the ball for around 18 minutes. Despite the longer drives, they were held scoreless in the third quarter. It was overall a weak quarter for both teams. Baker threw his second interception, and Hawai’i went 1-for-2 on their field goal attempts.

The fourth quarter saw some greater action. To start Caden McDonald sacked Cordeiro and in the processed forced a fumble that SDSU recovered. Despite starting on the opponents 10 the offense was forced to settle with a field goal.

Hawai’i responded on their next drive with their biggest play of the game. Cordeiro connected with Calvin Turner for a 75-yard touchdown pass. Unfortunately for the Rainbow Warriors that would be the last time they score all game.

When SDSU got the ball they slowly and methodically marched the ball down the field. At this point the game was 31-10 Aztecs lead. Lucas Johnson took over at quarterback, yet never even attempted a pass. A combination of quarterback options and traditional running players totaled 16 plays and took 9:01 off the clock. Despite ending the drive with a field goal, the game was secured with three minutes left in the game.

The Aztec running totaled 326 yards which is more than Hawai’i’s whole offense (275) and the Aztec passing game (30) combined. This continues to be the team’s game plan and they may have added another element to it. With Baker struggling its possible Johnson gets more time at QB and he did rush for 47 yards in four attempts.

Regardless of who is at QB the offense will be happy with how the defense shuts down other teams. They tallied seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. The three turnovers ties the season high that was set against Utah State. Brady Hoke knows what he has and is using it effectively.

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