San Diego State almost lost their match against 23rd ranked Arizona State, but due to a complete catch-turned-incomplete pass, Arizona State failed to score on their final drive and the Aztecs swiped a 28-21 victory. The Aztecs have now won four out of their last five games against PAC-12 opponents.
It was an old-fashioned battle of the defenses in the first half, as both offenses struggled to get any forward momentum. The Aztecs, even with Noble Hall out for the game, got great work from their run defense as they plugged up holes and didn’t allow Eno Benjamin to find any wiggle room.
Of course, Ryan Agnew and the offense struggled to get any momentum as well. The Aztec offensive line was ambushed by the Sun Devils front line and were outmatched and outgunned on many snaps. Agnew, making his first career start at quarterback, was forced out of the pocket and struggled to adjust to the pressure.
San Diego State would blink first as ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins led his troops down the field and scored a 12-yard touchdown on a pass to Brandon Aiyuk with 41 seconds left in the first quarter.
Agnew and the Aztecs answered with a touchdown of their own on the next drive, slowly tiring the Sun Devils down with a consistent running attack led by Juwan Washington picked up 49 yards on the drive. He would cash in by running the ball up the gut for a 13-yard touchdown.
A weakness so far this season has been the Aztec secondary and Wilkins picked on them whenever he could. Frank Darby fought off the Aztec secondary and grabbed a 51-yard pass to put the Sun Devils in the redzone. Wilkins would make a one yard dash to complete the drive and take the lead.
ASU nearly scored again at the end of the second quarter. Wilkins even found Darby again, this time exposing the Aztec secondary for 43 yards. The defense would come through by stopping the Sun Devils on three plays and, on fourth-and-one, head coach Herm Edwards decided to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal. Myles Cheatum had other plans, hunting down Wilkins and dropping him for a drive-ending sack.
With a little more than a minute, Agnew and the offense sped down the field with Agnew making quick and precise passes to his receivers until finally driving down to ASU’s nine-yard line. It was here that Agnew would sling a pass to Tim Wilson Jr for a touchdown, tying up the game.
After the first half, Rocky Long adjusted his game plan to play the clock. Indeed, his plan worked as the defense kept the Sun Devils off the field and extremely frustrated. While SDSU couldn’t get much forward progress themselves, Chase Jazmin and Washington were constantly fed the rock and ticked off precious seconds of clock. John Baron II would set a career high for a field goal try by notching a 54-yard field goal with enough leg to spare.
After the third quarter, SDSU would notch three more points thanks to a 36-yard chip shot from Baron. After a three-and-out forced ASU to punt, SDSU would drive 62 yards up the field and burn a little more than six minutes off the clock with an impressive drive that resulted in a Jazmin touchdown. Rolling the dice, Long chose to go for the two point conversion, and a pretty pass from Agnew combined with an even prettier catch by Kahale Warring completed the conversion attempt.
Arizona State wasn’t done yet as they were going to fight until the bitter end. After blitzkreiging down the field, Wilkins tossed a touchdown pass to N’Keal Harry to put the Sun Devils within one. An ensuing onside kick, however, was fielded by Parker Baldwin who immediately fell to the ground after grabbing the football. Unfortunately, the game couldn’t just end that easily. On a third down, Jazmin took the ball up the middle and passed the first down marker but, instead of falling to the ground to down the ball, he kept powering forward. Arizona State stripped the ball away and, after a review, the call was questionably upheld by the referees and Arizona State got a second life.
The most controversial play of the game would occur on this drive. A desperation heave by Wilkins found the open arms of Darby for a complete catch, but Trenton Thompson wouldn’t allow it to happen. Slamming into Darby, Thompson was immediately flagged for targeting, but at the same time, dislodged the ball ever so slightly from Darby’s hands. As the refereed converged to review the footage, the entire crowd (even the wild and raucous student section “The Show”) fell silent. Two things were decided after the replay meeting was over; Thompson would be ejected from the game (and will most likely be handed a suspension by the NCAA), and the pass was ruled incomplete.
An infuriated Arizona State took the field for one last play, but lighting wouldn’t strike twice. Baldwin slapped a Hail Mary pass down like a volleyball, and San Diego State took home the victory 28-21 thanks to a play that ruffled the feathers of many who were not wearing the Red and Black.
While it was an impressive win, San Diego State can still improve on many things. The team has to be more disciplined when it comes to penalties, as holding calls wiped up big plays and killed drives. The young secondary still has a lot of work to do when it comes to coverage and physicality, but to their credit, they did make adjustments in the second half.
Agnew was impressive in his first start, leading the Aztecs on long drives while his mobility get him out of situations that Christian Chapman may not have gotten out of. Aside from the fumble, Jazmin looked solid carrying the ball and, after his performance, will most likely be involved in more play in the future.