clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Aztecs and Warriors start in a defensive slugfest and finish with a late SDSU win.

Both ‘teams' defenses showed up for most of the game but eventually, the Aztecs finished on top 16-14 with a Jack Browning field goal with 7 seconds left.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Hawaii at San Diego State Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Aztecs do just enough to hold off the Warriors' upset attempt, winning 16-14 on a last-second field goal by Jack Browning.

The Aztecs script was undoubtedly one everyone has seen for many years. Run, run some more and run again. There was no reason to think that the game against visiting Hawaii would be any different. The Warriors were last in the Mountain West in total defense, rushing defense and points allowed. Allowing 40+ points, the Aztecs were sure to find some opportunities with their pound-it-running game to control clock and score points. Being a 20 point favorite all but ensured that the Aztecs, if executing to even a modest level, should handle Hawaii. Added to the drama was Jalen Mayden, a safety this year, who was suddenly thrust into the unenviable position of having to learn offensive plays and step in and lead a team that ranked last in passing in the country. Mayden was a highly recruited high school quarterback out of Garland Texas, when he signed with Mississippi State. He appeared in a few games but was primarily relegated to riding the bench. After transferring to San Diego State last year, he moved to safety, realizing that would provide him with the best opportunity to play. Little did he know that he would be asked to lead the Aztec offense. “Whatever’s best for the team, that's what I’m willing to do,” said Mayden earlier in the week. To further add to the drama, the Aztecs would have a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Horton and a new QB coach, Ryan Lindlay. The Aztecs were in panic mode and did what was needed to be done. Would it translate itself to the actual game? Many in the announced crowd of 33,073 sat back, anxious yet sure that the Aztecs would finally have a game that was a pretty sure victory.

With offensive coordinator Jeff Horton calling plays from the field, Mayden was given a small dose of basic plays, helping him to build his confidence without asking too much. The Aztec defense lived up to its reputation, as they kept Hawaii’s offense in check. Drives of 7, 3, 12, 3, and 1 play netted the Warriors just 89 total yards and no points. in the first half. The Aztecs meanwhile, managed to cap off a 7-play drive with a 45-yard Jack Browning field goal and a 3-0 lead at halftime. The Aztecs managed only 123 yards, but there were some positive developments. Mayden was playing turnover-free and the passing game was actually beginning to click. During the first half, he completed passes to Jesse Matthews for 43 yards, Tyrell Shavers for 28 yards, Brionne Penny for 15 yards and Mekhi Shaw for 11, all good for 97 yards in passing. What was scripted as a predictable running attack was actually showing signs of a passing game waking up.

Offenses wake up in the second half with the Aztecs discovering what it feels like to have a passing attack

The Aztecs came out with the ball to start the second half and it took 7 plays to cover 65 yards, culminating with a fantastic one-handed catch by Jordan Byrd who went untouched fifteen yards into the end-zone and a 10-0 Aztec lead. It looked like the halftime adjustments were paying off and the Aztecs would settle into a rhythm. This was short-lived as Hawaii quarterback Brayden Schager connected with speedster Zion Bowens for a 66 yard touchdown, trimming the Aztec lead to 3. That would be the longest play of the game, which was primarily focused on runs and short to intermediate passing routes by both teams. The Aztecs would score again in the 4th quarter on a Jack Browning 30 yard field goal and had a 13-7 lead midway through the last quarter. With less than 5 minutes remaining, Browning came on again to attempt a 30 yard field goal but missed it slightly right. That would have made the game a two-score contest. There was a collective sigh of angst realizing that Hawaii could win the game with a touchdown. The Warriors started on their own 20 yard line and with Schager leading the offense, deftly mixed runs and passes to move Hawaii to the Aztec 22 yard-line with a little more than a minute left. On the 7th play of the drive, Dedrick Parson took a handoff and skirted through the Aztec defenders and into the end-zone for a Hawaii touchdown. The extra point by Matthew Shipley gave Hawaii their first lead of the game, 14-13.

The ball and the game were put squarely into Jalen Mayden’s capable hands as he showed again, the poise of a seasoned safety/quarterback. Starting at their own 35, Mayden completed passes to Shavers for fourteen yards and Shaw for four and the Aztecs were moving. An inopportune pass interference penalty against Hawaii gave the Aztecs six more yards and a first down. Mayden again found Shaw for six and seven yards. Brionne Penny got into the action with catches of three and sixteen putting the Aztecs into position for a field goal attempt from the Hawaii 9 yard line with ten seconds remaining. Browning calmly chipped through the 26 yard field goal and the Aztecs had the lead back with seven seconds left. The ensuing kickoff ended in a fumble and the Aztecs were breathing a collective sigh of relief at the turn of events. Mayden would wind up 24/36 for 322 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. The yards nearly surpassed the Aztecs' total season passing yards.

Hawaii used the bye week to drastically improve nearly all facets of their game

One can analyze the game and figure that the Aztecs failed to perform up to expectations against a supposed, vastly inferior team. I would like to defer that and reflect attention back to Hawaii, their bye week and Coach Timmy Chang. Coach Chang took more control over the offense and used the bye week to challenge the players. One doesn’t know what happens behind closed doors, but the Hawaii Warriors came to play. They were prepared, they were inspired and they were a completely different team than they had previously shown. Hawaii has lived with the run-and-shoot offense, having been developed in Hawaii by previous coach June Jones and his offensive leader, quarterback Timmy Chang. Who better than Chang to revive that offense in an attempt to reclaim the glory days. One must realize these changes do not happen quickly. The run-and-shoot is basically an option through the air. The wide receivers make a read on their defender and the quarterback will read his receiver. Most plays are designed to be shorter in nature, allowing a receiver to catch a ball in space and use their talent for yards after catch. The Warriors returned two of their previously injured receivers, tight end Caleb Philips and wide out Zion Barnes. Philips would make two catches for six yards. It was Barnes who had a breakout game with 108 yards on 9 catches and the 66 yard touchdown, Quarterback Brayden Schager was efficient going 20/34 for 196 yards and the one score. Time, patience and personnel development are what is needed for the Warriors to begin to shine once again. Chang is a die hard Warriors supporter and he has the fans squarely in his corner. This game was a positive mark, one of those character-building games. This was exactly what Hawaii needed heading into next weeks game versus the Nevada Wolfpack, themselves reeling and looking for direction. I expect to see the Warriors climb out of the cellar and finish with a couple of conference wins.

Do the Aztecs have a quarterback controversy with the performance by Mayden?

With the outstanding performance by Mayden, the obvious questions begin swirling about the next game. If Braxton Burmeister is cleared to play, does he get the call or will Mayden? A basic football rule is a player does not lose their starting status due to injury. A player should not be penalized because they were hurt and unable to perform. In this case, it warrants discussion as to why Mayden should continue. First, Burmeister had several games to establish himself. Two victories, three losses and the nations worst passing. Nothing against Burmeister's grit, determination and give-em-hell-at-all-costs attitude. I have been a big supporter since the season started. Bottom line must be which quarterback gives them the best chances to win. The bye week seems to appear perfectly placed in mid season and heading into the second half, two weeks of practice and evaluations can and should be considered. The Aztecs next play on Saturday October 22, against Nevada. They will be coming off of a game against Hawaii so some obvious comparisons might be made. Will Nevada’s defense be more effective against Burmeister or Mayden? Those are tough questions for Coach Hoke and his staff to dissect. Make no mistake, the Aztecs have turned a corner with offensive coordinator Jeff Horton and quarterback coach Ryan Lindley providing much needed guidance, experience and instruction. The defense played well enough to win, allowing Hawaii 342 total yards, much of that in the second half. Perhaps the Aztecs can regroup their team during the off week while they prepare for Nevada. One thing is sure, whatever script they devise, may be subject to immediate change. After all, this is not a Shakespearean play where the outcome is determined. The game needs to be played and the outcome is far from a given.


Michael Shawcroft was held out of game against Hawaii. Getting him healthy will be of utmost importance heading into the second half. Running Back Chance Bell carried seven times for 53 yards including a long of 16 yards. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister was in street clothes on the sidelines during the game. He is a gamer and I’m sure he was cheering on Mayden and the Aztecs offense, but probably felt a bit of trepidation as to wondering where his place may be. The game temperature was 69 at kickoff, perfect Southern California football weather. Finally, there was a moment of silence for former Aztec and Dallas Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar, who was killed in a rock climbing accident last week. Coach Hoke accompanied family members holding Escobar’s framed no. 88 Aztec jersey.