San Diego State Aztecs vs Arizona Wildcats Game Summary
Arizona played a rude party guest at Snapdragon Stadium Saturday with a dominant performance, defeating the Aztecs 38-20. Arizona brought the heat to San Diego, as field temperatures soared over 100 degrees. The Aztecs seemingly wilted early on and struggled to maintain any level of consistency. What was an eagerly anticipated match between these two regional rivals, quickly turned into a well-balanced team performance by the Wildcats.
The tone was set early on as the Aztecs went on a quick three and out. A sustained drive by the Wildcats led to a field goal and a 3-0 lead. Later in the quarter, Jayden DeLaura completed a 17-yard TD pass to Jacob Cowing. This would be the first of four touchdown passes on the afternoon. Early in the second quarter, the Aztecs would partially answer with a 44 yard field goal by Jack Browning to make the score 10-3. The Aztecs would struggle on the day with a lack of consistent drives and big plays. Braxton Burmeister found himself pressured and he stumbled on the day going 5/10 passing for a paltry 51 yards. He added 20 yards on the ground on 10 attempts, mostly running for his life. The Wildcats made sure he was punished on every run, knocking his helmet off several times and eventually knocking him out of the game with a shoulder injury late in the 3rd quarter.
The Wildcats quickly answered with another DeLaura touchdown pass, this time to freshman phenom Tetairoa McMillan, who made a sensational grab while being turned into pancake from Denny’s. The Aztecs weren’t quite ready to give up yet, as Burmeister found Tyrell Shavers for an 11 yard TD catch. After the extra point, it was 17-10. This would be the closest the team from San Diego would get. With seconds left before halftime, DeLaura again found Cowing for a 4 yard score and headed into break comfortably ahead 24-10. The Aztecs found rushing yards hard to come by as they were consistently met with stiff resistance, led by Wildcat defenders Jerry Roberts, Jalen Harris and Jaxen Turner.
Shortly into the 3rd quarter, the Aztecs were moving the ball, but unfortunately had a touchdown called back by a holding penalty. After losing the ball, the Wildcats struck again and once more, it was Jacob Cowing, the transfer from UTEP, snagging his 3rd TD of the day, this a 25 yard dart from DeLaura. He would finish the day with 8 receptions, 152 yards and three scores. Following an Aztec punt to the three-yardline, they held the Wildcats to a 4th and 12 from the 1. The following play is being affectionately called the butt-punt as punter Kyle Ostendorp managed to kick the ball into the backside of his upback. The ball was recovered in the endzone by Jaylon Armstead for an Aztec touchdown. Hold onto your seats folks, it’s not quite over yet. The Aztecs held the Wildcats again and with Burmeister out of the game, backup Will Haskell stepped in to see if he could alter the chain of events. Several gains by Jordan Byrd and Cam Davis moved the ball, but the Aztecs drive fizzled and they had to settle for a 23 yard field goal, moving the score to 31-20.
The 4th quarter began with the Wildcats holding possession and with two minutes gone, would tally the last score on the day. Running back DJ Williams would power in from 10 yards out and with the extra point, moved the game to 38-20, which is where it would end. The Wildcats showed they are a drastically improved team from last year. Integrating 53 new players, they showed a level of talent that is sure to make the Wildcat diehard fans smile. The key stats favored the Wildcats. Time of possession was 32:37 to 27:23 , total yards 461 to 232 and first downs 25-14. The Aztecs outgained Arizona on the ground 170-162, but this was due to the anemic passing game. Both sides suffered two turnovers, while also blocking a punt.
While Arizona has improved significantly over last year, it remains to be seen how the Aztecs will rebound from this loss. It’s obvious that Arizona was the better team. They have already improved upon last year's marks. Coach Fisch has brought in key transfers and new recruits and their future is beginning to look bright. What is in store for the Aztecs will be played out over a larger period of time. Next week they are home against Idaho State, a team thoroughly dismantled by UNLV last weekend. This should provide an opportunity to re-establish their running game and perhaps discover a passing game. The defense should perform well enough to hold the Bengals to low yardage and an even lower score. How the Aztecs play will be a precursor to the game against Utah the following week. As of writing, the Utes are leading Florida 10-7. San Diego State was clearly outplayed and outclassed by Arizona and are going to need to find their winning ways because conference play lurks ahead and the teams in the division are going to be taking shots at them, now that their weaknesses have been exposed.
Questions heading into this week should be what is the health of quarterback Burmeister? The Aztecs practiced all spring and fall with him running the show. What will happen if Haskell is forced to step in, perhaps a bit earlier than anticipated? On the other side, Burmeister did not impress, looking lost, slow to make decisions and prone to big hits. How can the Aztecs get the ball into their receiver's hands? Go-to receiver Jesse Matthews only caught two balls for 18 yards and Tyrell Shavers had two catches for ten yards. Those type of numbers from your key players is certainly going to be a serious area of concern. Losing to a good Arizona team, that they were actually predicted to beat, could set more realistic expectations for the team this season. One thing is pretty certain, the heat brought by the sun shouldn’t dampen one's desire to see an Aztec game at Snapdragon Stadium. Despite many empty seats, the Aztecs should continue to win more games than they lose and continue to build upon their reputation as a conference contender. Friday September 30 against Boise State could be the great decider as to how far the Aztecs need to go.