Behind a strong performance from their special teams, the San Diego State Aztecs broke their two-game skid with a 29-17 win against the Colorado State Rams.
The Aztecs scored three touchdowns Saturday, and two of them came on punt returns within two minutes in the second quarter.
Jordan Byrd returned the first kick 93 yards to make the score 14-3.
One minute and thirty seconds later, B.J. Busbee returned his punt 90 yards to increase the lead to 17, because kicker Matt Araiza missed the PAT.
Although Araiza missed an extra point, he also contributed to the special team’s success Saturday. Araiza made all three of his field-goal attempts and scored the last nine points for the Aztecs.
In the Aztecs’ last two losses, the offense struggled mightily and remained in games because of their elite defense. This trend continued once again.
At first, it seemed like SDSU might perform well offensively after their 81-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter. The Aztecs did not score another touchdown on offense after their second drive.
Similarly, the defense allowed the lackluster offensive performance to be victorious.
The Aztecs’ defense didn’t receive much help from the offense, so they were on the field quite often. Despite that, they still held the Rams to just 17 points.
The defense also consistently limited Colorado State to short gains. The Rams averaged just 2.9 yards per run and 4.2 yards per pass. In addition to that, the Aztecs also picked off the Rams twice in the second half to ice the game.
A major headline entering the game was SDSU’s quarterback situation. Inconsistent play from Carson Baker and an injured Lucas Johnson left the quarterback situation in doubt for the Aztecs. SDSU head coach Brady Hoke opted to start Jordon Brookshire behind center.
The Aztecs did not ask much out of Brookshire, as he only passed the ball 22 times for 130 yards on 14 points. Brookshire also recorded 38 yards on the ground. The Rams sacked Brookshire three times, so that also hurt his rushing totals.
With running back Greg Bell still banged up, the Aztecs used a running back-by-committee approach. Jordan Byrd and Chance Bell did the majority of the carrying. Byrd carried the ball 10 times for 33 yards, while Bell ran six times for 23 yards. Kaegun Williams joined those two in a smaller role, tallying 17 yards on four carries.
The Aztecs will play their final regular-season game next Saturday at BYU. A lot of Aztecs fans consider the BYU Cougars San Diego state’s biggest rival.
BYU entered Saturday undefeated at 9-0 as the nation’s #13 ranked team. They did not plan to play on Saturday, but the Liberty Flames were dealing with COVID-19 issues and dropped out of their game against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on Thursday. BYU stepped in and lost a nail-bitter to Coastal Carolina.
Saturday’s contest against BYU will kick-off at 7 PT in Provo.
Dominic is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism. He also is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.”