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Aztecs show glaring weaknesses in 35-7 loss at Utah

Defense starts strong but the Aztecs overmatched against a good Utes team.

NCAA Football: San Diego State at Utah Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State Aztecs vs Utah Utes game summary

Hope and expectations were high with the Aztecs taking on Pac-12 power Utah. Consensus was that the Aztec defense would keep them in the game while the offense methodically chewed clock and burned yards. The defense came out strong and inspired, holding Utah scoreless until the second quarter. An aggressive defensive scheme that integrated blitzes, stunts and pressure forced Utah into a series of punts. The same would hold true for the Utes as they would clamp down on the Aztec offense. Jay Armstead would provide some breathing room with several carry’s but the rest of the offense failed to show up. Armstead would finish with 31 yards on 5 carry’s. Midway through the first period, quarterback Braxton Burmeister went out with an eye injury. He would not return. That’s about when the Aztecs got chewed and burned by the Utes. Backup quarterback Will Haskell came in for a series and completed pass for one yard he would not return and would be replaced by freshman Kyle Crum According to Coach Hoke, ““We felt at that time…that Kyle would give us the best opportunity.”

Utah Strikes First

Meanwhile, the Utes signal caller, Cameron Rising, was shaking off his own slow start. The Aztec defense pressured Rising and harassed his receivers with tenacious consistency. Early in the second quarter, Rising would connect with Tavion Thomas, Solomon Enis, Devaughn Vele before connecting with a wide open Brant Kuithe for a 30 yard score the Utes would not look back. The Aztecs took the ensuing kickoff and would go three and out. Utah would take possession and take 9 plays while covering 82 yards with Rising connecting with Enis for a 13 yard TD strike. The Utes were up 14-0 at this point and with momentum shifting, kicked off to the Aztecs. The ball was fielded by an up back who took a big hit and fumbled with the ball recovered by the Utes. 4 okays and 27 yards later Rising found Vele for a 15 yard score and a 21-0 lead at halftime.

Can the Aztecs gather momentum in the second half?

More of the same greeted the Aztecs to start the 3rd. A Penalty and a sack were sandwiched around two Jordan Byrd rushes for 24 yards and the Aztecs thinking they may have found a new scheme. Crumbs next pass was picked off by Karene Reid and returned to the Aztecs 30 yard line The Utes would only need four plays, all rushes by Thomas culminating in a 18 yard score and for all intents and purposes, a done deal, leading 28-0. Utah would tally one more score before the Aztecs finally found the end zone with Crum throwing to Josh Nicholson for 18 yards.
Utah would finish with 398 total yards, 224 passing and 174 rushing while the Aztecs would muster 173 yards, 113 on the ground and an anemic 60 in the air Aztec quarterbacks would be 7/21 passing while Rising would finish 18/30 and four TD’s. SDSU punter Jack Browning proved a capable weapon early on by pinning Utah with decent punts. He would wind up with 8 punts for a 45.6 yard average.

What’s up next for a beleaguered Aztec team?

With many questions left to answer and some new ones to consider, the Aztecs return home next Saturday to face the Toledo Rockets, a team on their own vision quest. Coming off of a 77-21 drubbing at the hands of a great Ohio State team, Toledo is out to right their ship after this payday game. At hand for San Diego State, are its own pressing issues. What is the situation with the quarterback? All three showed an extreme inability to move the ball with any consistency. Burmeister will be evaluated to see if his eye is ok to play. If it is, what changes does he need to implement? If he is not ok to go, the backups, Haskell and Crum, did not impress in the outing against Utah. Adding to the problems, the status of running back Chance Bell is still unknown. He did not make the trip, leading to various speculations about his condition. Special teams turned the ball over again this week. Jordan Byrd only managed seven yards on his one return. The overwhelming issue and concern again lie with the quarterback. Ineffectiveness, despite valiant attempts, is the current status. The inability of the quarterback to find his receivers and the obvious inability of the receiving corp to gain adequate separation will continue to plague the Aztecs. The run game has potential, but no stars at this time. While the preseason looked bright for the Aztecs, expectations have been squashed and hope is but a sinking ship. The team is looking forward to getting past Toledo this next week and into conference play, as the overall body of work by their conference foes leaves much to be desired as well.