The San Diego State Aztecs (4-4, 3-2 Mountain West) missed a golden opportunity to separate themselves from the rest of the West division when they lost to Nevada on Saturday by a score of 30-14. It was a tale of two halves for the Aztecs, as they took a 14-10 lead into the halftime locker room, only to give it away in the second half. Nevada took advantage of three turnovers on the day and cruised to victory. The Aztecs are still very much in the hunt for the division title, but now they have their backs against the wall, and may need to run the table for a chance to win it.
Senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler, presumed to be fully healthy, appeared tentative for much of the game. Kaehler did manage to complete 21 of 36 pass attempts, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jemond Hazely. Fortunately, just one of his pass attempts was intercepted, because it looked like a couple of other attempts should have been picked off. Kaehler's slow velocity made his tosses an easy target for defenders. He did, however, throw a couple nice touch passes, which appear to currently be Kaehler's strength. When the team struggles, Kaehler is not yet the emotional leader poised to lead the team back from a deficit.
Running Backs: C+
Sophomore Donnel Pumphrey and junior Chase Price appeared pretty good on paper, combining for 143 yards rushing and 31 yards receiving. But the big stat that affected the outcome of the game was the two fumbles that Pumphrey recorded on long runs. Overall, the running backs had done a nice job this season holding onto the ball until Pumphrey's miscues in this game. Pumphrey and Price are the keys to the Aztec's success, so expect this to be something they will learn from going forward.
Wide Receivers: B+
The return of senior standout Ezell Ruffin clearly impacted the defensive coverages and several receivers had decent days. Hazely (three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown), Lloyd Mills (three catches for 52 yards), and Ruffin (three catches for 21 yards) all played well. Ruffin will continue to be a significant offensive threat for the rest of the season and his presence will help the young receivers.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line did a nice job creating some holes for the running game as it has all season long. It did, however, allow four sacks.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line did everything they could have to limit the talented and mobile Nevada quarterback, Cody Fajardo. He ended the day with just 4 yards rushing. It was only late in the game when the Aztec coaches took some chances on blitzes that the Nevada running game had success. Standouts were juniors Jon Sanchez and Christian Heyward. Heyward may have had his best game as an Aztec.
The San Diego State linebackers had a strong game overall containing Nevada to short plays. Derek Largent played really well in spite of looking like he was playing through a leg injury. Also, the return of Jake Fely was fun to watch as his defensive pursuit is as good as anyone's in the conference. He played the majority of the game and was involved in six ackles.
Sophomore Na'Im McGee had a good day and was involved in a lot of plays. The challenge for the defensive backs as a unit is their ability to make tackles in the open field on a consistent basis.
Special Teams: C-
The special teams had their second poor game of the season, highlighted by Seamus McMorrow's 13-yard punt. Junior star kicker Donny Hageman never had a chance to kick any field goals
Stars of the game:
Running back Chase Price, defensive lineman Christian Heyward and punt returner Lloyd Mills earn my offensive, defensive and special teams stars of the game, respectively.