Three issues we discovered … when the Aztecs have been defeated by the state of San Jose between 28-17
Ball safety has been one of the hallmarks of the state of San Diego during a five-year unprecedented success story.
This is what made developments in the fourth quarter of the game against the state of San Jose on Friday night so shocking.
In a quarter.
In 13 games.
It meant a catastrophe with a 28-17 defeat against the Spartans (3-0), which ended a seven-game defeat against the Aztecs (2-1).
This is how unusual the sales were for SDSU:
• In the fourth quarter, the Aztecs had played 214 games with no sales that season (their only one had come from a muffed punt in special teams).
• In the 15 games from the start of the 2019 season until the competition against the Spartans, SDSU had only generated nine sales (two in special teams). Only the state of Oregon (6) had fewer sales during this period.
• SDSU had one or zero sales in 14 of their last 15 games.
• The Aztecs have had just four games with three turnovers in more than five seasons (69 games), most recently losing three mistakes in a 2018 game in New Mexico (SDSU still scored a 31-23 win).
SDSU does not provide a historical breakdown of sales by quarter.
Suffice it to say that three turnovers in a quarter are extremely rare.
And certainly not within 13 games.
Here are three things we learned – revenue expenditure – from the loss of SDSU to the State of San Jose at Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park:
1. The backward pass
SDSU took the 17-14 lead 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, forcing the state of San Jose to lose their next possession and having the ball back to extend their lead.
In second and eleventh place on SDSU 38, quarterback Carson Baker fell behind, could not find an open receiver and Greg Bell was also unaware of the safety valve.
With the security of San Jose State resting on Tre Jenkins, Baker attempted to throw the ball. His mistake was not to throw it forward and ensure a harmless incompleteness.
The ball was thrown about six feet behind the quarterback, making it a sideways and a fumble.
To make matters worse, Bell did not run after the loose ball immediately – as the players train -, reacted slowly and held it short.
This allowed San Jose State defender Viliami Fehoko to beat Bell and recover.
The Spartans took possession of the SDSU’s 17 yard line. Two rushes later, both by running back from Tyler Nevens, and they were 21-17 ahead.
2. The interception
SDSU got the ball back at 11:05 in play and moved it for a possible touchdown on the field – or at least for a field goal that would have made it a one-point game.
Baker, who hit third and 14th places from San Jose State 15, fell back and shot into the end zone at a point where three San Jose State defenders gathered.
SDSU tight end Daniel Bellinger was on his way to this point, but Jenkins had a position on him and Bellinger turned to an opening in the middle of the end zone.
Misunderstandings? May be.
Jenkins dumped a ball that was thrown at a spot rather than a man, juggled it, then secured it to deny the Aztecs.
SDSU coaches have discussed Baker’s development as a quarterback. This is the chapter on adversity.
At this point, the SDSU stepped up the defense, stopping the state of San Jose at its 35-yard line, forcing a punt.
The Aztecs took a break to stop the clock at 3:47. Lots of time for a potentially game-changing journey. Except …
3. The fumbling
Elijah Fischer’s 42-yard punt had enough waiting time for his teammates to enter the field to ensure good coverage.
And that led to a certain indecision of the SDSU returnees Jordan Byrd.
Byrd wanted to catch the ball and improve the Aztecs’ field position. However, it did not signal a fair catch.
That said, Byrd didn’t signal anything until at the last moment some sort of alligator armed a wave with his right hand (a fair catch must be ostentatious, with the arm stretched over the head and the hand waving back and forth). how the San Jose State Tre Walker fell on him.
Byrd, perhaps distracted by Walker, had actually hit the ball first in his helmet and then in his right hand.
Walker had planned his arrival perfectly and had shaken Byrd before the ball could be stowed. The Spartan Rico Tolefree fell on the loose ball at SDSU 27.
Four games later, San Jose backup quarterback Nick Nash ran in the middle for a 14-yard touchdown that postponed the game.
Byrd had returned four kickoffs in the game, but the last went to teammate BJ Busbee.
Byrd also had a muffed punt at the season opener against UNLV.
Trainers often look elsewhere when it seems like it is becoming a habit.
Byrd was among the three players who botched punts in 2018 when the Aztecs spent half the season getting to grips with the punt-return game. He has elite speed and the potential to be a game breaker in the second leg.
It remains to be seen how long SDSU head coach Brady Hoke will stay with him.
Don’t be surprised the next time wide receiver Jesse Matthews is back when SDSU returns a punt.