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San Diego State Football: Grading the Aztecs in their 38-29 loss at Boise State

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The Aztecs lose an important conference battle against the Broncos of Boise State.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs (5-5, 3-3 Mountain West) battled the Boise State Broncos in 9-degree temperatures, the coldest conditions any Aztec team has ever played in. The loss was disappointing for San Diego State as a win would have put it in the driver’s seat to win the West division. It appeared that with a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter, the Aztecs may just be the better team on this day, but their grip on the lead as well as the game slowly slipped away as the Broncos outplayed the Aztecs for the entire second half. SDSU had defeated Boise State in the previous two meetings. San Diego State’s next two contests are at home against a very strong Air Force team and a feisty San Jose State squad.

Quarterback:  B-

Senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler played pretty well completing 17 of 29 passes with one touchdown and one interception. Kaehler showed some good crispness on his passes and threaded the needle effectively a couple of times for a few key first downs. His lone pick came on an errant pass late in the third quarter that resulted in a Boise State go-ahead touchdown three plays later. Kaehler is not among the league’s most mobile quarterbacks and was sacked twice on the day.

Running Backs:  A

Sophomore Donnel Pumphrey had another strong game for the Aztecs carrying the ball 24 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Pumphrey exhibited great resilience after taking a pounding on the frozen blue turf. Pumphrey had two brilliant touchdown runs, one for 32 and the other for 34 yards.   Junior Chase Price only carried the ball six times but managed 29 yards. He did get stuffed at the goal line on the Aztec’s two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game at 31.

Wide Receivers: B

Nine different receivers caught balls in the game with senior standout Ezell Ruffin leading the way with four catches for 60 yards. Sophomore Daniel Brunskill caught the lone receiving touchdown on a 6-yard pass play. Sophomore Eric Judge also continues to become a bigger factor in the receiving game as the season progresses and looks as though he will have a bright future with the Aztecs.

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line played well blocking an aggressive Boise State defensive front four. Senior Terry Poole and junior Pearce Slater held up well in the freezing conditions and helped create some key running lanes for Pumphrey. Kaehler had better than average protection for the majority of the game.

Defensive Line: C+

Senior Sam Mereidth and junior Jon Sanchez led the defensive line, but it eventually wore down as the game progressed. The line did not have much success penetrating into the backfield or stopping standout running back Jay Ajayi, especially in the second half.

Linebackers: B-

Senior Cody Galea was very effective with his eight tackles and even forced a fumble. Sophomore Calvin Munson, who has become a very important starter, was involved in nine tackles and dropped into coverage to make an athletic play on an interception, his team-leading third of the season. The linebackers had some challenges filling gaps and making tackles on Ajayi once he got going. Junior Jake Fely suffered a season-ending broken wrist, a tough break for the frequently injured Fely whose aggressive style of play can be game-changing when he's healthy.

Secondary: C+

The secondary struggled when it was needed the most. It seemed like every time Boise State had a third-and-long late in the game, it was able to complete a big pass play to an open receiver ultimately leading to seven points. Sophomore safety Malik Smith had 10 tackles on the day leading the team. Senior J.J. Whittaker made his second interception of the season. Sophomore Brandon Porter made some nice plays defensively including a perfectly defended touchdown pass attempt, but later unsuccessfully defended a tough pass play that resulted in a Bronco touchdown.  His aggressiveness did not go unnoticed, though.

Special Teams: B

Junior Donny Hageman had a perfect day converting field goals of 41, 30, and 44 yards. The punt defense could not stop a fake punt on a fourth-and-four in the third quarter. That resulted in a 24-yard gain and an eventual Ajayi touchdown that brought the Broncos within a single touchdown of the lead.

Stars of the game:

Running back Donnel Pumphrey, linebacker Calvin Munson and kicker Donny Hageman earn my offensive, defensive and special teams stars of the game, respectively.