Aztecs, Broncos Game Summary
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” This intro line by Charles Dickens in his ‘Tale of Two Cities’, is an appropriate description of the two halves of football played by San Diego State on Friday night in Boise Idaho. The defense was a shining light, a beacon of hope, making plays and believers, while holding a Bronco offense, with questions of their own, scoreless in the first half for the first time in ten years. One could sense the darkness and despair on the Bronco's sideline as they struggled on offense to gain any kind of traction or momentum. Many in the announced crowd of 36,387 felt that the Broncos had fallen to levels not seen in recent memory. The halftime speech by coach Andy Avalos must have been one for the ages because Boise State immediately turned the second half into a beacon of hope and light as they completely dominated the Aztecs in all facets of the game. It has become apparently obvious that the San Diego State season is quickly approaching nightfall. The first play from scrimmage to start the second half set the tone for the remainder of the game. Braxton Burmeisters sideline pass was intercepted by Tyreque Jones at the Aztec 31-yardline. Two running plays later by newly appointed starting quarterback Taylen Green saw him hit pay dirt and the Aztec lead was cut in half. This was the beginning of a new season of hope for the Broncos team, and the beginning of the winter of despair for the Aztecs.
Perhaps significant change happened with the replacement of previous Offensive Coordinator Tim Plough with Dirk Koetter. The changes didn’t stop there when starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier quit the team and entered the transfer portal, There was a serious season of discontent brewing up in Smurfville. Replacing Bachmeier, who had thrown for over 6,000 yards and 41 touchdowns would not be an easy task. Yes there was talent waiting in the wings in the name of Taylen Green, but the experience that Bachmeier brought would not easily be replaced. This year saw challenges for him as he struggled to complete only 54% of his passes for less than 500 yards. He may have seen the writing on the wall and decided to do a preemptive strike and depart on his own terms. It took a half of football for the Broncos to perhaps discover their next quarterback of the future in Green. He wound up with 48 yards passing, but bigger than that, 105 yards rushing and he steadily gained confidence as the game progressed. He was complimented in the rushing game by George Holani with 131 yards and Ashton Jeanty added 82 more yards.
Boise State wakes up in the second half. Maybe it was the halftime snack
Both teams came into the game with much to prove to fans, critics and themselves. As expected, the defense would set the tone for the majority of the first half. Neither team was able to generate an offensive touchdown. The Aztecs settled for two Jack Browning field goals of 21 and 25 yards. The exciting moment of the first half came when Tyrell Shavers blocked a James Ferguson-Reynolds punt and returned it 36 yards for an Aztec touchdown. The Broncos trailed 13-0 at halftime, the first time they were blanked in the first half in ten years. The second half turnaround may well provide the pivoting point for the Broncos. After the Jones interception and Greens touchdown run, the Broncos scored with a Holani 12 yard run, a 32 yard sprint by Jeanty, a 39 yard sideline jaunt by Green and capped off with a 29 yard run by Holani, who split the Aztecs and ran untouched through the middle of their defensive line. There was a brief period in the second quarter where Green was replaced with Sam Vidlak who came in and went 9/12 for 86 yards. Once the second half started it was all Green. It was a strong Broncos rushing outing, accounting for 316 yards on the ground. Through the air, seven Broncos made a catch led by Billy Bowens with 3 for 63, Davis Koetter (yes, the new OC Koetters son) 2 for 21 and a variety of a support cast with a few catches for short yardage. The passing game was one of controlled passes, with no need to exploit deep throws. With everything clicking on all cylinders, it appears they are just in time for their next game against Fresno State. The Bulldogs are coming off of a bye week last week and are currently taking on Connecticut on Saturday in a tight game. They currently are 1-2 with losses to USC and Oregon State. They lead the MWC in passing, providing an intriguing challenge for Boise State. Again, the winner will have an inside track to their respective divisions leaderboard.
Aztecs offense continues its offensive performance
The Aztecs might want to take a play from the Broncos playbook. With the departure of Will Haskell, comparisons can be made with Bachmeier's departure. While his exit can be closely related to the replacement of OC Plough, the Aztecs still retain Offensive Coordinator Jeff Hecklinski. The Aztecs may be served to finally part ways with this coach. One can say that rock bottom has been reached and they can only go up. The litany of ineptness is lengthy. The Aztecs were whistled for 10 penalties including 6 false starts. One particularly damaging penalty was on a Bachmeier to Shavers 10 yard TD pass which was called back due to lineman Dean Abdullah being downfield. The Aztecs had to settle for a field goal. The Aztecs had 33 yards passing in the first half and would gain exactly zero more in the second. Bachmeier went out in the third quarter after taking a hit to the helmet by Broncos safety J.L. Skinner. He would not return and was undergoing concussion protocols. This is the third game out of five that he has had to leave a game. No one is doubting the ‘Burmeisters' toughness, but if this is the only option available to the offense, then it is certainly a bare cupboard. Backup Kyle Crum came in and did no better throwing one incompletion, fumbling twice (both recovered by the Aztecs) and accounting for a -28 yards rushing. He was replaced after injuring his collarbone, which looks to be broken. His backup was Liu Aumavae, another freshman making his first appearance. He threw seven times but failed to connect with any receiver. He provided a bit of confidence, but it was not nearly enough.
Only two Aztec receivers caught passes, Jordan Byrd for seven yards and Jesse Matthews with a leaping grab for 26 yards. On the ground, the Aztecs averaged 2.3 yards per carry with Byrd leading the way with 61 yards and Burmeister with 36 more. Spot appearances by Cam Davis, 3 carries, 9 yards, Chance Bell, 3 carries for 5 yards and Kenan Christon carried twice for no gain. 35 rushing plays and 16 passing plays for 114 total yards screams something is rotten in Denmark. Changes can and should be implemented to try and salvage what may be left of this season.
Aztec defense plays tough in the first half, but might have lost their way in the locker room at halftime
The Aztecs seem to have made a wrong turn coming out of the locker room Friday night. Neither unit was able to find its way back out on the field. The defense appeared to be at the top of its game during the first half, forcing six Boise State punts and keeping their rushing game in check. The Aztecs got an interception by Dez Malone off of a tipped pass. Green could only manage 5 completions for 48 yards and the Aztecs seemed well in control at halftime, leading 13-0. One must give credit to Boise for making the requisite adjustments, and they came out and executed. It comes as a complete surprise that the Aztecs appeared unprepared, ill-equipped and unable to adapt and revise their defense when they saw Boise begin to dominate. Could this be an issue with Defensive Coordinator Kurt Mattix? On a bright note, Patrick McMorris was back after an injury and contributed 7 tackles. Defensive End Garrett Fountain was seen everywhere with 8 tackles with one being for loss. Many other players had an opportunity to contribute. Michael Shawcroft went out with an unspecified injury and his status at this time is unknown. The next game will surely require the Aztecs to regain their composure and their previous defensive acumen. Hawaii will come to Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday October 8 for an evening affair. This is an important game for the Aztecs to regain their mojo on both sides of the ball. Hawaii has been going through severe growing pains and should not provide too much of a test for the Aztecs. That being said, if the second half Aztecs show up against Hawaii, then all bets are off. I expect that the Aztecs will work on issues, play execution, perhaps play and coach selection. The Aztecs have certainly experienced the worst of times and are surely working to find the best of times in their next outing.
As a final note, former Aztec and Dallas Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar, was killed in a Rock climbing accident on Wednesday. Condolences on this tragic loss.