Aztecs overcome Spartans upset bid in 19-13 double overtime victory

Aztecs overcome Spartans upset bid in 19-13 double overtime victory

SAN JOSE — It was an upset in the making until it wasn’t.

The San Jose State Spartans went toe to toe with the 24th ranked San Diego State Aztecs but in the end the Aztecs had just enough in the tank to defeat the Spartans 19-13 in a double overtime win on Friday evening at CEFCU Stadium.

San Diego State remained undefeated at 6-0 and is now 2-0 in the Western Division of the Mountain West Conference. San Jose State have lost two in a row for the first time this season and dropped to 3-4 (1-2 in MWC play).

It was homecoming night for San Jose State. They inducted San Jose native and former Oakland Raiders/Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones into their Ring of Honor. The ceremony took place at the end of the first quarter with a video tribute of Jones’ former Packers teammates wished him congratulations on the honor.

“Wow it was a great night at CEFCU Stadium,” said Spartans head coach Brent Brennen. “A great crowd (of) students, fans, James Jones and his family in the building. It’s about as good of a night that we could have in our building outside the outcome.”

The game was a defensive showcase from both teams and neither gave an inch for the first 60 minutes of the game.

Coming into the game, San Diego State was averaging over 244 rushing yards per game led by senior running back George Bell, whose 520 yards and five touchdowns were second in the Mountain West.

San Jose State’s defensive front four dominated the San Diego State’s offensive line throughout the game led by senior defensive tackle Noah Wright. The 6’5” 315 lineman lit up Bell on a carry early in the third quarter where Wright plowed Bell right into the ground for a loss of two yards that fired up the 17,117 in attendance.

The Spartans defense held the Aztecs to their lowest rush output of the season at 70 yards and a total of 240 yards.

“They have a good defensive front,” said Aztec head coach Brady Hoke. “They do things, schemes wise, to stop the outside run. We have a lot of respect for their defensive front. We thought we’d had some problems (with them).”

San Jose State also held Aztec quarterback Jordan Brookshire to just 13 of 27 for 132 yards and no touchdowns. They sacked him once and had multiple hits as they pressured him and had him scrambling out of the pocket for most of the game.

“If you look at our defensive effort, it was just incredible. Incredible. They kept answering the call,” Brennen said.

San Diego State’s defense were no slouch themselves, especially in the first half as they held running back Tyler Nevens to just 16 rushing yards and overall 31 yards in the first 30 minutes of the game.

“It was a hard-fought, tough, physical football game. Winning close games and winning games like that, you have to do that to win a conference,” Hoke said.

San Jose State had one glaring Achilles heal on the evening and that was taking too many penalties that either stalled offensive drives or kept their defense on the field. Between the defense and the special teams, the Spartans had five offsides penalties. They finished the game with a season worst 12 for 101 yards.

On SJSU’s third possession a 15-yard facemask penalty by guard Hudson Mesa wiped out what would have been a 35-yard touchdown by wide receiver Malik Welch from quarterback Nick Nash. The Spartans ended up punting after failing to convert the third and long situation.

Both teams traded field goals early in the second quarter. SDSU’s Matt Araiza, who also contributed as the punter, kicked a 53-yarder at the 11:16 mark and SJSU’s Matt Mercurio chipped in a 32-yarder with 8:17 left in the second quarter.

San Diego State went up 6-3 just before halftime on a 11 play, 64-yard drive set up by a 24-yard reception by Isaiah Richardson from Brookshire. Araiza capped off the drive with a 26-yard field goal.

In the second half, San Jose State’s defense continued to frustrate Hoke’s offense as they shut out San Diego State in the second half. Out of the five possessions the Aztecs had in the second half, three of them were three and outs, one drive ended with a sack and the other ended with a missed field goal from 55 yards out. However, the unsung hero during regulation for San Diego State was Araiza whose leg the Aztecs relied on in the second half with his punting that resulted in poor field possession for San Jose State.

One of Araiza’s punts went for 86 yards (aided by a fortunate bounce off the field turf) and pined the Spartans at their own three-yard line in the third quarter. It was the second longest punt in SDSU history and the longest punt against in SJSU history.

In the fourth quarter San Jose State pushed back offensively with the rushing attack of Nevens and Nash. San Diego State had a difficult time trying to stop Nevens running between the tackles and Nash on the outside when he ran keepers.

San Jose State had the opportunity to pull off the upset with 15 seconds left in regulation but Mercurio’s 52-yard field goal attempt fell short as the game went into overtime.

Hoke made a change midway through the fourth quarter as he inserted backup quarterback Lucas Johnson into the game for Brookshire to change the pace and momentum.

The move worked out well for San Diego State as Johnson was responsible for both touchdowns in each overtime. Both were to wide receiver Jesse Matthews. The first one was on a designed fade route where there was one-on-one coverage that Matthews made a nice catch from 13 yards out.

SJSU answered back on their drive to tie the score at 13-13 with a one-yard rushing touchdown from Nevens. The drive was set up thanks to a nice catch along the sidelines by tight end Derek Deese Jr., who finished as the Spartans leading receiver with six catches for 113 yards, at the five-yard line.

The Spartans were denied the go-ahead touchdown in the second overtime when SDSU safety Trenton Thompson intercepted Nash’s pass in the endzone to set up Johnson’s heroics.

On third down, with SDSU only needing a field goal to end the game, Johnson read that Matthews once again had one-on-one coverage, so he called an audible at the line of scrimmage and instead of running the ball, he threw up a pass for Matthews to jump in front of the defender and haul in the game winning 24-yard touchdown catch inside the endzone.

San Jose State were left to ponder what could have been as the penalties and missed opportunities were too much to overcome in the end.

“The thing that’s going to make us sick as we get into the film, are penalties. Which are just ridiculous and need to be eliminated the best we can. But they (San Diego State) made the plays they had to late in the game and we didn’t. And that’s the reality of it,” said Brennen.

The Spartans need to build off this tough loss quickly as they look to rebound as they travel out to Las Vegas to take on UNLV Rebels on a short week with a Thursday evening game at 8:00pm at Allegiant Stadium.

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