Aztecs Rely on Defense to Control the Bobcats.
San Diego State welcomed the 2023 football season with a hard fought 20-13 win over the visiting Ohio Bobcats. 23,867 sun-drenched fans watched the newest iteration of Aztec football. Quarterback Jalen Mayden was a work-man like 17 of 27 for 164 yards. He also added an additional 24 yards on 10 rushes. Leading the Aztecs ground game was Jaylon Armstead with 78 yards on 8 carries and Kenon Christon with 45 yards on 11 carries. The Aztecs used 7 different receivers in an attempt to spread the ball, add dimensional diversity, and attempt to find their next go-to guy. Tight end Mark Redman seems to fit that bill, showing why he was MWC pre-season first-team tight end, leading the Aztecs with five receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns. No other receiver stood out on the state line, as Mayden threw completions to seven of his skills players. Redman had scoring receptions of 13 yards in the second quarter giving the Aztecs a 10-6 lead and finished the scoring in the last quarter with a 4 yard strike to lose out to the Aztecs scoring. Of note is that the two touchdowns would match Redman's entire touchdown total from 2022.
Aztecs Pick Three Passes
The day was all about the defense. While the offense resembled the mid-season form from last year, the defense continues to show its mark early in typical Aztec fashion. Three interceptions to start the season will make the coaches happy. New Zealand (Kiwi) Williams, Cedarious Barfield, and Trey White all added to the interception parade. Barfield stopped an early Bobcat drive and turned the momentum back to the Aztecs. This clutch drive killer allowed the Aztecs to stay close while trailing early 6-3. Jack Browning connected on a 49 yard field goal to start the game and would add a 21-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Aztecs knock out Bobcat Quarterback Rourke
The Aztecs stepped up time after time to thwart the Bobcats attempts to score, They finally got into the end-zone with a minute left in the game, but the contest had already been decided. Perhaps the key turning point happened in in the second quarter when starting quarterback Kurtis Rourke was sacked by Zyrus Fiaseau an Vai Kaho and was slow to get up. He eventually left under his own power but would not return. His day finished with 8 out of 10 completions for 131 yards. His replacement CJ Harris would finish out the game on 18-42 passing for 203 yards, a touchdown but the aforementioned three interceptions. His start was ominous as his first pass was picked off by Trey White. The Aztecs provided pressure on Ohio all day, but the Bobcats would carry the total yards 380-309. The Bobcats had to settle for a 19 and 40 yard field goal from kicker Gianni Spetic in the first half. They would not score again until late in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Curtis to Miles Cross. This was set up by a roughing the passer call that eliminated a 100 yard interception return by Aztec freshman safety Marcus Ratcliffe. He played all over the field and could be the next Aztec All-Star in the making. Ohio wideout Sam Wiglusz led all receivers with 10 receptions and 103 yards.
The season started with questions at the running back position with both Kenan Christon and Jaylon Armstead looking to take the lead. While both played, neither really had the game they desired. Armstead rushed for 78 yards including a 48 yard-run in the third quarter, he did lead off the game with a fumble. His struggles to hold onto the ball obviously have continued into this season. Christon started fast, breaking free on several runs, but eventually only accounted for 45 yards on 11 carries leaving the running back position open for grabs. Punter Jake Browning helped the Aztecs cause with a 56 yard average on his three punts. Several Aztecs were missing from the lineup, none more noticeable than offensive lineman Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson, who will miss two games for violation of team rules. Saturday's game time kickoff of 4:00 might have impacted attendance. The warm weather tends to keep fans away as only 16,831 fans according to turnstile attendance were at the game. On a positive note, 5,000 students filled up the north section. This can be encouraging. Next Saturday's game against the Idaho State Bengals starts at 7:30, and it’s possible that the late start might be more appealing for those who are weather-conscious. The Aztecs will be expected to win and win big against the Bengals who they handled last year 38-7. The Aztecs and their fans need to show that there is more interest in their football program, similar to the type of excitement for Aztec basketball. But hey, 1-0 to start the season. Better than last year's start. Bring on the Bengals and let the good times roll.