College Football: San Diego State survives Ohio's late rally 20-13
The San Diego State Aztecs took down the Ohio Bobcats 20-13 in the first weekend of the 2023 college football season.
The Aztecs were led by safety turned quarterback Jalen Mayden, who took over as the teams starting quarterback for the final 8 games of the 2022 season. Mayden tossed for 164 passing yards along with 2 touchdowns while completing 62 percent of his passes. Junior running back Jaylon Armstead led the rushing attack by garnering 78 yards on the ground with an average of 9.8 yards per carry. Senior tight-end Mark Redman was the lead receiver for the Aztecs as he contributed 5 catches for 62 reception yards along with two touchdowns (only San Diego State receiver to score).
Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke returned to the offense after suffering an ACL injury late in the 2022 season against Ball State. Rourke’s return didn’t last long as he was taken out the game after enduring a brutal hit in the first quarter and did not return. Rourke went 8/10 for 75 passing yards with an average of 7.5 yards per attempt before leaving the game. Backup senior quarterback CJ Harris took the reins from then on and posted 204 passing yards, one touchdown and 3 interceptions. Sophomore halfback Sieh Bangura led the Bobcats on the ground by accumulating 65 rushing yards with an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Senior wideout Sam Wiglusz displayed his ability by leading the Ohio pass catching core with 10 receptions for 103 receptions yards.
San Diego State elected to receive the ball first and established the run quickly. The Aztecs first drive featured a 22-yard run by senior halfback Kenan Christian, who averaged 4.1 yards per carry in the matchup. Mayden looked uncomfortable during the drive which led him to overthrow a few passes that could’ve resulted in a touchdown. Nonetheless, the Aztecs cashed in on a 49-yard field goal attempt by senior kicker Jack Browning to go up 3-0.
Rourke and the Ohio offense started out strong, as the 2022 Mid-American MVP showcased his athleticism and his ability to throw accurately while on the move. The Ohio offense averaged 32 points per game in 2022 (led the MAC), and it showed as the Bobcats went down the field relatively easy, but was halted as Rourke failed to connect on a slant route at the goal line which could’ve resulted in a touchdown. The Bobcats settled for a field goal, thus tying the game at 3 apiece with 4:22 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
After a fumble by Armstead on the Aztecs next drive which led to a turnover, Rourke and the offense continued to move the ball downfield until Rourke was brutally sacked on a 3rd and 5 and was visibly shaken up. The Bobcats quarterback walked to the sideline on his own power but did not return to the game.
The second quarter commenced and Mayden is still struggling with semi to long distance passes. Due to Mayden’s limitations, the Aztecs offense utilized the ground game more frequently and implemented screen passes. After a 3 and out, Harris gets his first start for Ohio which led to an interception on his first pass attempt. The Aztecs offense looked more fluid on their fourth drive, but it capped off with a failed 38-yard field goal attempt by Browning at the 10:49 mark in the second quarter.
Harris and the Ohio offense went down the field via the ground game, which led to a successful 40-yard field goal attempt by freshman Gianni Spectic, which gave the Bobcats a 6-3 lead. The Aztecs offense went 3 and out on their next drive, but Harris and the Bobcats drove down to the redzone once again. Harris threw his second interception in the matchup as the Aztecs defense stopped the Ohio offense twice within scoring distance.
The Aztecs began their sixth drive on the night which resulted in a 13-yard touchdown pass to Redman from Mayden as time expired in the first half. San Diego State led 10-6 at intermission.
The Bobcats kicked off the second half with a mighty drive down the field, as they converted 4/5 3rd down attempts. Harris’s in-accuracy showed as he overthrew a couple of potential touchdown passes. Once again, the under-sized Aztec defense (defensive linemen all under 300 pounds) stopped the Ohio offense which resulted in a missed 31-yard field goal attempt by Spectic.
After ineffective drives by both teams, San Diego State had a prolific drive downfield that featured a 48-yard run by Armstead. The Ohio defense made a redzone stop which caused the Aztecs to attempt a 21-yard field goal by Browning. The Aztecs took a 13-6 lead as the fourth quarter began.
Harris and the Ohio offense struggled to muster any momentum as they went 3 and out on their next possession. Mayden led the Aztecs offense on a 79-yard drive that was capped off with Redman’s second touchdown reception. San Diego State led 20-6 with 5:39 remaining in the game.
The Bobcats offense desperately went down the field in hopes to keep the game within reach, as they trailed by two touchdowns. Harris connected on a 3-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Miles Cross on a 14-play drive with 1:59 remaining in the contest.
Ohio attempted an onside kick that failed, which put the Aztecs in position to run out the clock and not give the Bobcats possession of the ball again.
Surprisingly, San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke decided to try and convert on 4th and 3 which they failed, thus, gave possession back to Ohio. The Bobcats had :53 seconds remaining to score a touchdown that could potentially tie the game. Harris and the Bobcats went on an 8-play 33-yard drive and made it to within striking distance, but Harris’s pass was intercepted by sophomore linebacker New Zealand Williams to close out the game.
Ohio (0-1) will head home to do battle with LIU next Saturday (Sept 2) while San Diego State (1-0) will stay home and face Idaho State next Saturday.