San Diego State knew that they would be going up against one of the top quarterbacks in the country at California. Jared Goff’s stock started to rise since the end of last year, a shame he couldn’t shine in a bowl game. The Bears' uptempo offense was going to go fast compared to the pro-style offense of San Diego State which depends on a steady dose of Donnel Pumphrey and the rotating backs.
If there was any success for San Diego State it would be to set the tone and then go head-to-head with Cal. It did the former, but failed on the later. After winning the coin toss and electing to receive the opening kick, Maxwell Smith put together an 8-play drive culminating in a 29 yard touchdown to TE Daniel Brunskill.
On the ensuing drive, Cal quarterback Jared Goff was good, but the Aztec defense came out strong and shut down the Cal offense after four plays. On paper the Aztecs had some of the best defenders in college football against one of the rising offenses in college football-- something was going to give way.
Cal eventually broke through the San Diego State defense on their fourth possession and put together a 8-play drive ending with a 4-yard touchdown to Darius Powe.
Then the switch came.
Rocky Long, not satisfied with Maxwell Smith's stalled possesion after the Bears touchdown, put Christian Chapman into the game. The red-shirt freshman didn't impress anybody and ending up throwing a pick while driving the Aztecs down under two minutes in the half, leaving the door open for Goff to score before halftime.
Before the half concluded, Goff put together a 52-second, 65-yard drive on three plays and connected to Maurice Harris for a touchdown. At the half it was 14-7 Cal. In the Aztec locker room there were a lot of questions on the board like who would return at quarterback for Aztecs and how could they stop the Bears on defense?
When the Jared Goff got the ball on offense to start the half he found Trevor Davis blazing past the Aztecs secondary for a 75-yard touchdown. After that it was safe to say the Bears had all the momentum. The second half was all Bears running back Daniel Lasco who ended the game at 123 yards and one touchdown.
Maxwell Smith came out to start the second half but the problem remained-- San Diego State’s wide receivers couldn't find space. When receivers can't make plays, the running game is going to see eight guys in the box. Pumphrey ended the game with 21 carries for 76 yards. The running game was supposed to be San Diego State’s bread and butter, but by the second half they looked gassed and the offense couldn’t gel under either Maxwell Smith or Christian Chapman.
On defense they were just overmatched by speedy receivers and blown coverage. Goff knew how to take advantage of the mistakes and picked them apart. By the end of the third quarter, the San Diego State defense was on the field for too long.
The opening drive was part of the game plan, but the guys couldn’t find the gears and the unsuccessful switch from Maxwell Smith to Christian Chapman signaled a white flag to everyone outside the stadium.
The Aztecs were being handled by the Bears but the Aztecs were also beating themselves. They had 12 penalties for 137 yards, including a lot of unsportsmanlike conduct calls on both sides of the ball.
This matchup needed to be a strong performance from Maxwell Smith. Jared Goff was going to throw the ball and keep the Aztecs on the field. Smith needed to connect with the receivers to open up the game for Pumphrey, but it just didn't happen. Credit the defense for bottling up Pumphrey and the backs, but shutting down the pass was big.
In the coming week, it's QB watch again. Who's it going to be? The mediocre-former SEC graduate transfer or the red-shirt freshman? Next week it's FCS South Alabama, and hope that they don't look past them to Penn State.