Monday, December 5, 2022
Ty Gaston

CFB Preview: Mountain West Conference Championship

UTAH STATE FACES SAN DIEGO STATE IN MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP

UTAH STATE AGGIES NOTES

/// KICKOFF COVERAGE ///

• Utah State won the Mountain Division of the Mountain West via a tie-breaker with Air Force as both teams finished 6-2 in conference play, but the Aggies defeated the Falcons on the road, 49-45. USU was picked to finish fifth in the Mountain Division in the preseason polls.

• Utah State is appearing in the Mountain West Championship game for the second time in its nine years in the MW, as it lost at No. 24 Fresno State (24-17) in the inaugural championship game in 2013.

• Utah State’s two appearances in the Mountain West Championship are the fourth-most by any team, including the second-most by a Mountain Division school. Boise State has played in five championship games, Fresno State has played in four and San Diego State is appearing in its third this year. Air Force, Hawai’i, San José State and Wyoming have all played in one championship game.

• Utah State is 6-0 on the road for the first time in school history and those six road wins are a school record. In fact, there have only been three teams in school history to not lose or tie a road game (1907 (1-0), 1911 (2-0), 1923 (4-0)). USU is also one of just three teams in the nation to go 6-0 on the road this year (Cincinnati, Houston) and one of eight teams not to lose a road game (Air Force, Cincinnati, Georgia, Houston, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and San Diego State.

• Utah State’s nine wins are tied for the fourth-most in school history as it is just the eighth time ever that a USU team has won nine or more games (1960, 1961, 1972, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2021). USU has only won 10-plus games in a season three times in school history (2012, 2014, 2018). It is also just the seventh time in school history that USU has won six or more league games.

• Utah State’s eight-game improvement is tied with Michigan State (2-5 in ‘20 to 10-2 in ‘21) and Northern Illinois (0-6 in ‘20 to 8-4 in ‘21), and trailing Michigan (2-4 in ‘20 to 11-1 in ‘21) for the second-best turnaround in the nation as the Aggies were 1-5 last season and are 9-3 this year.

• San Diego State (53-19) and Utah State (43-28) rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, for best records against Mountain West opponents (including championship games) since USU joined the league in 2013. Boise State (59-15) has the best record in the league during that time.

 

/// UTAH STATE TEAM NOTABLES ///

UTAH STATE PLAYS AT SAN DIEGO STATE FOR MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP
• Utah State (9-3, 6-2 MW) plays at No. 19 San Diego State (11-1, 7-1 MW) in the Mountain West Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 1 p.m. (MT). The game will be televised nationally on Fox (Xfinity Ch. 13/HD655, DirecTV Ch. 359, DISH Ch. 6374) with Joe Davis (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analyst) and Bruce Feldman (reporter) on the call.

• Utah State received eight votes in this week’s Coaches Poll to rank tied for 32nd in the nation. It is the third time this season that USU  as received votes in the national polls.

UTAH STATE LOOKING FOR 12TH CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
• With a victory against San Diego State, Utah State will win its 12 conference championship in school history and first since it won the Western Athletic Conference in 2012. USU also won five Big West Conference titles (1978, 1979, 1993, 1996, 1997), three Skyline Conference titles (1946, 1960, 1961), and two Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles (1921, 1936).

UTAH STATE vs. ASSOCIATED PRESS RANKED TEAMS
• Utah State is 5-63 all-time against Associated Press-ranked teams, but has won four of its last 13 meetings against top-25 competition, including its 35-20 win at No. 18 BYU in 2014, as the Cougars are the highest-ranked AP team the Aggies have ever defeated. USU’s last win against an AP Top 25 team was in 2015 as it posted a 52-26 home win against No. 21 Boise State. In 2013, USU posted a 21-14 win against No. 24 Northern Illinois in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. In 2012, USU posted a 48-41 overtime win at No. 19 Louisiana Tech. And, in 1991, it defeated No. 25 Fresno State at home, 20-19.

• This is the first time that Utah State is playing a nationally-ranked San Diego State team.

• Utah State head coach Blake Anderson is 1-5 all-time versus Associated Press-ranked teams, including an 0-1 record at Utah State, with his lone win coming at No. 25 Troy (35-3) in 2016.

SCOUTING UTAH STATE
• Utah State is 9-3 on the season following its 35-10 road win at New Mexico last weekend and went 6-2 in Mountain West play to win the Mountain Division. USU, which has won six of its last seven games, is led by graduate junior QB Logan Bonner, who is 228-of-377 (.605) passing for 3,236 yards (269.7 ypg) with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Graduate junior RB Calvin Tyler Jr. has rushed for 723 yards on 153 carries (4.7 ypc/72.3 ypg) with five touchdowns. And, senior WR Deven Thompkins has caught 87 passes for 1,543 yards (17.4 ypr/128.6 ypg) and nine touchdowns. Defensively, graduate senior ILB Justin Rice has 105 tackles, which includes 12.0 tackles for loss, to go along with three interceptions and one forced fumble. USU is averaging 32.2 points and 457.2 yards of total offense (152.9 rushing, 304.3 passing) and allowing 26.3 points and 397.3 yards of total offense (163.8 rushing, 233.6 passing).

• Utah State is bowl eligible for the ninth time in the last 11 years after playing in six bowl games in its first 119 years. USU played in five-straight bowls from 2011-15 and won three straight from 2012-14, both of which are school records. All-time, USU has played in 14 bowl games.

• Utah State is one of 29 teams in the nation that has won at least nine games this season, including one of four Mountain West teams. USU is also one of 37 teams in the nation with at least six conference wins, including one of four MW teams.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS IN UTAH STATE’S ROAD GAMES
• Utah State is 6-0 on the road for the first time ever as it rallied from double-digit deficits in each of its first five road wins. It is the first time USU has won six road games in a season.

• Utah State is averaging 36.8 points and 471.5 yards of total offense (153.0 rushing, 318.5 passing) on the road this season, while converting 45-of-90 (.500) third downs, and has a 61- 17 scoring advantage in the final 15 minutes of its six road wins.

ANDERSON ONLY FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACH IN THE NATION WITH NINE WINS
• Utah State’s Blake Anderson is one of 19 first-year head coaches at the FBS level in 2021 and is the only head coach to have at least nine wins this season.

• Anderson is one of just two first-year head coaches in school history to win nine games, joining Matt Wells (9 wins in 2013).

• Anderson was just the third coach in school history, and first since E. Lowell Romney in 1919, to win his first three games at USU. The other was Fred M. Walker, who went 7-0 in 1907.

UTAH STATE vs. SAN DIEGO STATE IN MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

• Utah State and San Diego State have met in the championship game of the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Tournament in each of the last three years, with USU winning the tournament in 2019 and 2020, and SDSU winning the tournament in 2021.

DID YOU KNOW?

• Utah State will be playing on a grass playing field for the first time since posting a 23-17 win against San Diego State at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego on Sept. 21, 2019.

AGGIES RALLY FROM DOUBLE-DIGIT DEFICITS FOR SIX WINS
• Utah State has rallied from double-digit deficits to win six of its nine games this season, marking the first time in school history that has  happened. In fact, USU overcame a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit in each of its first two road wins this season, and won each of its first five road games after trailing by double digits.

• In its 48-17 road win at San José State (11/13), Utah State overcame a 14-point (14-0) second-quarter deficit and outscored SJSU 48-3 the remainder of the game.

• In its 35-13 road win at New Mexico State (11/6), Utah State overcame a 10-point (10-0) first-quarter deficit and outscored NMSU 35-3 the remainder of the game.

• In its 28-24 road win at UNLV (10/16), Utah State overcame a 10-point (17-7) first-quarter deficit and scored the winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining in the game.

• In its 49-45 road win at Air Force (9/18), Utah State overcame four double-digit deficits to get the win. First, USU trailed 10-0 before taking a 13-10 lead. USU then trailed 24-13 and later 31-20 before taking a 34-31 lead. USU then trailed 45-34 before scoring 15 unanswered points in the final 9:51 for the win.

• In its 48-24 home win against North Dakota (9/10), Utah State outscored the Fighting Hawks 41-3 over the final three quarters after trailing 21-7 in the first 15 minutes of play.

• In its 26-23 season-opening road win at Washington State (9/4), Utah State overcame a 12-point (23-11) fourth-quarter deficit by scoring 15 unanswered points in the final 5:25 of the game.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS DURING UTAH STATE’S NINE WINS
• Utah State has trailed after the first quarter and at the half in eight of its 12 games this year, and trailed after the third quarter in six of its 12 games. USU is 5-3 on the season when trailing after one quarter and at halftime, and 3-3 when trailing after three quarters.

• Utah State has been outscored 99-62 in the first quarter, but has outscored its opponents 105-56 in the fourth quarter, which includes a 95-33 advantage in its nine wins.

UTAH STATE WINNING THE CLOSE GAMES
• Utah State is 4-0 on the season in one-score games and has won those four contests by a total of 13 points. The school record for one-score wins in a season is five set in 2011, as that team posted a 5-5 record in one-score games.

UTAH STATE HAVING SUCCESS ON FOURTH DOWN
• Utah State has converted 14-of-28 (.500) fourth downs and has scored points on all but one of those 14 drives with 10 touchdowns and three field goals. The only drive USU did not score on this season after converting a fourth down was against New Mexico (11/26) as it was on the last drive of the game and USU ran out the clock. Overall, USU is tied for 27th in the nation in fourth-down attempts and tied for 31st in the nation in fourth-down conversions.

UTAH STATE MILESTONES THAT EQUAL SUCCESS
• Utah State has won 37 of its last 46 games when it has a 100-yard rusher, including a 2-2 record this year, 43 of its last 49 games when rushing at least 40 times, including a 5-1 record this year, and 61 of its last 66 games when scoring at least 30 points, including a 6-0 record this season.

UTAH STATE IN THE MOUNTAIN WEST
• Utah State is 43-28 (.606) all-time in the Mountain West, including a 20-14 (.588) road mark, which is the third-best record against MW opponents (including championship games) since it joined the league in 2013. Boise State (59-15) has the best record in the league during that time, while San Diego State (53-19) has the second-best record.

• Utah State is 21-7 (.750) against teams from the West Division of the Mountain West, which is the best record by any school in the league. Overall, USU has won 12 of its last 15 games against MW West Division opponents. Conversely, San Diego State is 23-5 (.821) against teams from the Mountain Division of the MW, which is the second-best record in the league.

UTAH STATE 16TH IN THE NATION IN TOTAL OFFENSE
• Utah State is averaging 457.1 yards per game to rank second in the Mountain West and 16th in the nation. USU also ranks third in the MW and 15th in the nation in passing offense (304.8 ypg), third in the MW and 27th in the nation in passing efficiency (152.3), third in the MW and 38th in  the nation in scoring offense (32.2 ppg), fifth in the MW and 73rd in the nation in rushing offense (152.3 ypg), fifth in the MW and 80th in the nation in completion percentage (.595), and sixth in the MW and 62nd in the nation in sacks allowed with 26 (2.17 pg).

• Utah State’s offense also ranks first in the MW and 24th in the nation in third down conversions at 44.6 percent (87-of-195), second in the MW and 12th in the nation in passing yards per completion (14.29), and second in the MW and 20th in the nation in first downs (23.7 pg).

UTAH STATE THIRD IN THE NATION IN TACKLES FOR LOSS
• Utah State is averaging 7.8 tackles for loss per game to lead the Mountain West and rank third in the nation. USU also ranks seventh in the MW and 68th in the nation in scoring defense (26.3 ppg), eighth in the MW and 75th in the nation in passing defense (233.5 ypg), eighth in the MW and 86th in the nation in rushing defense (163.8 ypg), ninth in the MW and 65th in the nation in pass efficiency defense (133.1), ninth in the MW and 81st in the nation in total defense (397.3 ypg), and 10th in the MW and 82nd in the nation in sacks with 23 (1.92 pg).

• Utah State’s defense is also second in the MW and third in the nation in fourth down conversions allowed at 28.6 percent (4-of-14), fourth in the MW and 46th in third down conversions allowed at 37.2 percent (58-of-156), and fifth in the MW and 32nd in the nation with eight fumbles recovered (0.67 pg).

UTAH STATE 21ST IN THE NATION IN PUNT RETURN DEFENSE
• Utah State ranks third in the Mountain West and 21st in the nation in punt return defense (3.9 ypr), fourth in the MW and 29th in the nation in net punting (41.2 ypp), fifth in the MW and 42nd in the nation in kickoff returns (22.3 ypr), fifth in the MW and 68th in the nation in punt returns (8.1 ypr), and 10th in the MW in kickoff return defense (23.0 ypr).

UTAH STATE HAS FORCED 19 TURNOVERS ON THE SEASON
• Utah State has forced 19 turnovers this year with 11 interceptions and eight fumbles, and ranks fifth in the Mountain West and 40th in the nation in interceptions (0.9 pg). USU has forced three-or-more turnovers in 28 of its last 94 games and has scored 25 defensive touchdowns in its last 103 games.

AGGIES IN THE MOUNTAIN WEST AND NCAA RANKINGS IN 2021
• The following is a look at where current Aggies rank in the Mountain West and in the NCAA in individual categories. Senior WR Deven Thompkins leads the nation in receiving (128.6 ypg). Thompkins is also first in the MW and fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards (150.3 ypg), third in the MW and 11th in the nation in receptions (7.2 pg), fifth in the MW and 33rd in the nation in yards per reception (17.7), and sixth in the MW and 24th in the nation in receiving touchdowns with nine (0.75 pg). Graduate senior DE Nick Heninger is first in the MW and third in the nation in fumbles forced with five (0.42 pg), and third in the MW in tackles for loss (1.29 pg). Senior WR Savon Scarver is first in the MW and 11th in the nation in kickoff returns for touchdown with one (0.08 pg), and third in the MW and 32nd in the nation in kickoff returns (24.2 ypr). Graduate senior WR Brandon Bowling is first in the MW and is 11th in the nation in kickoff returns for touchdown with one (0.08 pg), and seventh in the MW and 50th in the nation in receiving touchdowns with seven (0.58 pg). Graduate junior QB Logan Bonner is first in the MW and 27th in the nation in yards per attempt (8.58), second in the MW and 10th in the nation in passing touchdowns with 32 (2.67 pg), second in the MW and 14th in the nation in yards per completion (14.2), third in the MW and 18th in the nation in passing (270.2 ypg), third in the MW and 20th in the nation in points responsible for (16.2 pg), third in the MW and 30th in the nation in passing efficiency (155.0), fifth in the MW and 31st in the nation in total offense (275.5 ypg), fifth in the MW and 38th in the nation in completions (19.0 pg), and sixth in the MW and 78th in the nation in completion percentage (.603). Senior WR Derek Wright is fourth in the MW and 15th in the nation in receiving touchdowns with 10 (0.83 pg), and fourth in the MW and 30th in the nation in yards per reception (17.9). Graduate senior PK Connor Coles is fourth in the MW and 23rd in the nation in field goals made with 18 (1.50 pg), fourth in the MW and 39th in the nation in scoring (8.2 ppg), ninth in the MW and 75th in the nation in field goal percentage (72.0), and 10th in the MW in points responsible for (8.2 pg). Sophomore DT Poukesi Vakauta is fourth in the MW and 19th in the nation in fumbles recovered with two (0.17 pg). Graduate senior ILB Justin Rice is fourth in the MW and 28th in the nation in tackles (8.8 pg), eighth in the MW and 58th in the nation with three interceptions (0.25 pg), and eighth in the MW in tackles for loss (1.00 pg). Graduate senior S Shaq Bond is fourth in the MW and 37th in the nation in interceptions with three (0.28 pg). Junior OLB Ajani Carter is fourth in the MW and 37th in the nation in interceptions with three (0.28 pg). Graduate junior RB Calvin Tyler Jr. is fifth in the MW and 67th in the nation in rushing yards (72.3 ypg), and 10th in the MW in rushing yards per carry (4.73 ypc). Sophomore P Stephen Kotsanlee is sixth in the MW and 45th in the nation in punting (42.9 ypp). Graduate senior WR Jordan Nathan is sixth in the MW in punt returns (8.8 ypr). And, junior WR Justin McGriff is 10th in the MW in receiving touchdowns with five (0.42 pg).

DID YOU KNOW?
• Utah State is one of 11 teams with multiple kickoff returns for touchdown this year, along with South Florida (3), Alabama (2), Appalachian State (2), Arkansas State (2), Connecticut (2), Duke (2), Houston (2), Kansas State (2), Marshall (2), North Carolina State (2) and SMU (2). And, USU and Marshall are the only teams in the nation with two players that have returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

 

SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS NOTES

SCENE SETTER (as of Sunday, Nov. 28)
• San Diego State looks to claim the 22nd conference championship in school history, the fourth Mountain West championship and the first since 2016 when the West Division champion Aztecs play host to Mountain Division champion Utah State on Saturday afternoon in Carson, California. (#Win22)

• San Diego State is playing in its third Mountain West Championship Game, having defeated Air Force, 27-24 in 2015 and winning
at Wyoming, 27-24, in 2016 to claim back-to-back conference titles.

• San Diego State has tied the school record for victories (11) this season (also: 1969, 2015 and 2016). This is the 99th season in program history and the Aztecs have never won 12 games in a campaign.

• San Diego State is one of only 10 teams nationally with one or fewer losses (two undefeated teams and eight 1-loss teams).

• San Diego State has posted its fifth 10-win season in the last seven years. Currently, only eight schools have five or more 10-win seasons since 2015 – San Diego State, Alabama, Appalachian State, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma.

• SDSU is five games better than last season, going from 4-4 to 11-1. That is tied for the fifth-largest turnaround in the nation.

• The Aztecs moved up three positions in both the AP Top 25 and coaches poll this week at No. 19. SDSU is nationally-ranked in the AP poll for a school record seventh week this season (SDSU was nationally-ranked for five weeks 1970).

• With a No. 19 national ranking this week, San Diego State has matched its highest ranking in the AP Poll since the Aztecs were ranked No. 16 in the final poll of the 1977 season (released Jan. 8, 1978).

• This is the 31st week SDSU has appeared in the AP poll in school history and the 17th appearance since the start of the ’16 campaign.

• SDSU has made appearances in the AP Top 25 in four of the last six seasons (2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021) after experiencing a 341-poll drought (from Nov. 14, 1995 through Sept. 11, 2016).

• San Diego State ran its win streak to four games with a 27-16 victory over Boise State last Friday. SDSU clinched the West Division title by rallying from a 16-3 deficit in the back half of the second quarter, before scoring the final 24 points of the contest.

• The Aztecs outgained the Broncos, 408-319 (257-153 in the second half), and had large advantages in the key statistical categories turnover margin (SDSU +3), average field position (SDSU +6) and time of possession (+8:34).

• San Diego State’s defense did not allow a point over the final 38:38 of the game and held Boise State to its lowest point total since Dec. 21, 2019. The Aztecs forced three turnovers and have now won 28 straight games when the opponent turns the ball over at least three times.

• Junior Aztec Patrick McMorris intercepted two passes in the game and was named Mountain West Player of the Week for his efforts. He is the team leader in tackles and interceptions (tied).

• Quarterback Jordon Brookshire came off the bench to throw for 192 yards on 11-of-15 attempts and one touchdown

• This is the first time the Aztecs have opened a season with at least 12 games played, with a record of 11-1 or better. The 1969 team \
ended an 11-game season 11-0.

• The Aztecs are 6-0 in gamed decided by one scores or less, tied with Louisiana for the most wins without a loss in one-score games.

• SDSU is No. 21 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings (Nov. 23). The Aztecs, who had never appeared in the poll prior to this
season, have been ranked in every CFP Poll this season.

• Brady Hoke is the only active coach since 1996 to lead three different FBS programs (Ball State, Michigan and SDSU) to an 11-win
season and one of only two coaches overall (also Urban Meyer with Utah, Florida and Ohio State).

HOW WE WIN
• San Diego State’s special teams are among the best in the nation. ESPN College Football Efficiencies rate the Aztec special teams as the fourth-best nationally. Junior Matt Araiza currently leads the nation in punting (51.5) and is on pace to set an FBS record while senior Jordan Byrd is 11th nationally in kickoff return average (29.4). Meanwhile, the Aztecs have blocked three punts this season to rank sixth in that category.

• Junior defensive end Cameron Thomas has the second-best defensive rating in the nation (per PFF) among players with 575 snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, he has the most quarterback hits in the nation (18), the most quarterback pressures (72) and leads the team in tackles for loss (20.0), sacks (11.5) and quarterback hurries (19).

• Junior right guard William Dunkle has the sixth-highest overall offensive line grade (91.4, min. 300 snaps) and the third-highest run block grade (94.3, min. 300 snaps) by Pro Football Focus. Both marks lead the Mountain West as well. Dunkle has allowed just eight pressures (no sacks) on the season in 329 passing opportunities.

• Senior left tackle Zachary Thomas ranks seventh nationally among tackles in Pro Football Focus blocking grades (min. 100 snaps). In 737 snaps this season, Thomas has allowed three sacks, one QB hits and has committed just two penalties.

• Senior cornerback Tayler Hawkins owns the fifth-best coverage rating in the country among defensive backs (and No. 1 in the Mountain West) (88.2. min. 425 snaps). Hawkins also has the seventh-lowest pass efficiency in the country when targeted (No. 2 in the Mountain West) (87.43, min. 425 snaps).

• Defensively, San Diego State has been one of the top units nationally for the better part of a decade. In the 20 games in which Kurt Mattix has served as defensive coordinator (since the start of 2020 season), San Diego State ranks first in rushing touchdowns allowed  9), third in rushing yards allowed per game (86.5), fourth in yards allowed per rush (2.8), tied for fourth in total touchdowns allowed (41), fifth in total defense (302.0), fifth in scoring defense (17.5) and eighth in pass efficiency defense (114.3).

THE LEGEND OF MATT ARAIZA
• Junior punter/placekicker Matt Araiza, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award and AP first-team midseason All-American, continues to lead the nation and is on pace to break the NCAA FBS record for punt average.

• For the season, Araiza leads FBS in punt average at 51.5 yards. He has an NCAA record 38 punts that have traveled at least 50 yards, an NCAA record 18 punts that have traveled 60 yards and has 36 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

• Araiza has earned Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week four times this season.

• Araiza has six punts this season of at least 70 yards, including the longest (86 yards), tied for the fifth longest (81), ninth longest (79), tied for the 12th longest (77), tied for the 17th longest (75) and tied for the 28th longest (72).

• Since 1996, Araiza has two games with at least an 80-yard punt and a 50-yard field goal. It has only happened one other time in a FBS game in the last 26 seasons (Utah’s Louie Sakoda at Wyoming on Oct. 11, 2008) over that span.

TRENDING
Searching for the formula to a San Diego State victory? Look no further.

OFFENSIVE KEYS
• San Diego State is 52-2 the last 54 times it has rushed for 200 yards. The Aztecs surpassed 200 yards rushing in the first five games
this season.

• The Aztecs are 75-15 since 2011 when committing one turnover or less, something SDSU has done in 27 of its last 33 games.

• San Diego State’s 31 turnovers since the start of the 2019 are tied for the fourth fewest in the country (Kent State leads with 26). n SDSU had an advantage in time of possession in 23 of the last 33 games. Since 2011, the Aztecs are 30-7 when possessing the football for at least 35 minutes.

DEFENSIVE KEYS
• The Aztecs are 64-3 since 2011 when holding the opposition to 17 points or less. SDSU has held 18 of its last 27 opponents to 17 points or less.

• The Aztecs are 33-7 since 2011 when allowing less than 150 passing yards.

• San Diego State is 54-5 the last 59 times it has held the opposition to a 33.3 percent or less mark on third down.

• Since 2009, San Diego State’s record broken down by opponent passing efficency: less than 110: 63-8; between 110-150: 39-24;
greater than 150: 7-23.

• Since the start of the 2015 campaign, SDSU is 41-2 when holding its opponent to a passing efficiency rating of below 110. SDSU has
done that in eight of 12 games this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS / OVERALL TRENDS
• The Aztecs have are 42-2 the last 43 times when owning a turnover advantage.

• San Diego State is 23-2 the last 25 times it has an advantage in field position.

• Since the start of the 2015 season, San Diego State is tied for the most kickoff returns for touchdowns (13) with Kansas State.

• Since the start of the 2020 season, San Diego State has nine non-offensive touchdowns, tied for 5th nationally (Alabama, Boise State, Houston and Middle Tennessee, 10).

• This season, the Aztecs have five non-offensive touchdowns (two punt return, kickoff return, two interception returns). That is tied for 8th best in the nation.

THE 11-1 START
• At 11-1, San Diego State has its best 12-game record ever. San Diego State went undefeated in 1969 as an independent in an 11- game schedule but has never won 11 of its first 12 games in a season in which it played at least 12 games.

• San Diego State has never won 12 games in a single season.

• This was the fourth time in the Division I era that the Aztecs have won at least 10 of their first 11 games of the season (11-0 in 1969; 10-1 in 1976, 1977 and 2021).

• San Diego State’s 7-0 start this year was its first in the last 46 seasons (since 1975).

• In the Division I era, this is the first time SDSU has opened a season 7-0 with a pair of victories over teams from a Power 5  onference.

SCHOOL RECORD FOR VICTORIES IN PLAY
• San Diego State has posted the 12th double-digit win season in the program’s 99 seasons. The 11 victories are tied for the most in program history.

• SDSU has won a school-record 11 regular-season games. Prior to this season, the Aztecs had not won 11 games in a season without the benefit of a conference championship or bowl (merit or ceremonial) game in school history.

THIRD QUARTER WARRIORS
• Through 12 games, San Diego State has outscored the opposition, 109-34, in the third quarter.

• In fact, the Aztec have allowed only 34 points and three offensive touchdowns in the third quarter of its last 15 games dating back to last season.

• The four third quarter touchdowns the Aztecs have allowed points this season came on a 27-yard fumble return against New Mexico, a controversial touchdown by Air Force and short passes in the Nevada and UNLV games. Those are the only three third quarter  ffensive TD allowed by SDSU in its last 14 third quarters.

BULLET NOTES – OFFENSE
• San Diego State returns eight starters on offense this season – senior running back Greg Bell, senior tight end Daniel Bellinger, junior right guard William Dunkle, senior left guard Chris Martinez, junior wide receiver Jesse Matthews, senior wide receiver Kobe Smith, senior left tackle Zachary Thomas, and senior center Alama Uluave.

• Jeff Hecklinski is in his second season as offensive coordinator at San Diego State. Hecklinski was on Hoke’s original SDSU staff in 2009 and 2010 as the assistant head coach, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. He was also with Hoke at Michigan (2011-14) and Ball State (2004-08). He replaced Jeff Horton, who now serves as the associate head coach and running backs coach.

• Of all FBS schools that have played at least 70 games since 2015, San Diego State is second in fewest turnovers with 89 (LSU is first
with 87).

• Full bios of selected offensive players:
– RB Chance Bell – pgs. 45-57
– RB Greg Bell – pgs. 47-48
– TE Daniel Bellinger – pgs. 48-49
– QB Jordon Brookshire – pgs. 50-51
– RB Jordan Byrd – pgs. 53-56
– RG William Dunkle – pg. 58
– QB Lucas Johnson – pgs. 62-63
– WR Jesse Matthews – pgs. 68-69
– LT Zachary Thomas – pgs. 81-82

OFFENSIVE NUMBERS
• The Aztecs are 43-4 the last 47 times they have scored at least 30 points. SDSU has won its last nine games when scoring at least 30 points.

• Since Oct. 3, 2015, San Diego State is 55-9 when scoring at least 20 points.

• SDSU is 24-6 since 2011 when getting at least 36 minutes of time of possession.

• Since the beginning of 2014, SDSU is 59-13 when committing one turnover or less (11 straight wins) and 12-16 when having two or more turnovers in the game. San Diego State has one turnover or less in 24 of its last 30 games.

• San Diego State has one turnover or less in 45 of its last 60 games.

• SDSU is 49-9 in the last 58 games when owning an edge in time of possession.

• C Alama Uluave has played the most offensive snaps (802) on the season.

• According to Pro Football Focus, RG William Dunkle has allowed just eight pressures (no sacks) on the season in 329 passing  pportunities.

• Among offensive linemen, Dunkle has the fifth-highest overall grade (91.1, min. 600 snaps) and the third-highest run block grade (94.3, min. 600 snaps). Both marks lead the Mountain West as well.

• Z. Thomas has committed only two penalties over the last two seasons (1,368 snaps).

• Z. Thomas is graded as the ninth-ranked offensive lineman in FBS by Pro Football Focus (90.6, min. 600 snaps) (No. 2 in Mountain West) and No. 12 run blocker (91.0, min. 600 snaps).

RUSHING OFFENSE
• San Diego State is 52-2 the last 54 times it has rushed for at least 200 yards and is 49-1 in its last 50 regular-season games when  ushing for 200-plus yards.

•n San Diego State has a 100-yard rusher in 46 of the last 87 games since 2015 (58, 100-yard rushers total). Since Jeff Horton arrived as the running back coach in 2011, SDSU has a 100-yard rusher in 80 of the 139 games and 96, 100-yard rushers overall.

• San Diego State had two 100-yard rushers at New Mexico State (Jordan Byrd – 118 and Chance Bell – 116) on Sept. 14, 2019 for the 30th time in program history. The Aztecs are 29-1 in those occasions, including a 19-game win streak.

• San Diego State ran for at least 200 yards in each of the first five games this season, which was its longest streak since the final five
games of the 2017 season.

• The Aztecs had back-to-back games with at least four rushing touchdowns (Sept. 25 vs. Towson and Oct. 9 vs. New Mexico) for the first time since the 2015 season (Nov. 21 at UNLV and Nov. 28 vs. Nevada).

• RB Greg Bell ranks third in the Mountain West in total rushing attempts (208, 23rd in FBS), fourth in rushing attempts per game (17.33, 28th in FBS), rushing yards (940, 51st in FBS) and rushing yards per game (78.33, 55th in FBS), and tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns (9).

• G. Bell became SDSU’s 80th different 100-yard rusher with 111 yards vs. UNLV in the 2020 opener on Oct. 24.

• G. Bell ran for 161 yards against New Mexico State on Sept. 4, 2021, the sixth most in an Aztec season opener, trailing only the likes of David Turner (239 in 1976), Marshall Faulk (220 vs. USC in 1992 and 181 vs. CSUN in 1993), Rashaad Penny (197 vs. UC Davis in 2017) and Ronnie Hillman (189 vs. Cal Poly in 2011).

• G. Bell’s 161 were the most by an Aztec since Rashaad Penny had 221 vs. Army West Point in the 2017 Armed Forces Bowl (Dec.
23).

• G. Bell became the first Aztec in program history to start his Aztec career with three straight 100-yard rushing games to begin the 2020 season (ended up with four straight).

• G. Bell is one of 10 Aztecs in program history with at least four consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

• G. Bell is one of 15 Aztecs in program history with at least eight 100-yard rushing games.

• G. Bell has nine 100-yard rushing games in 23 career Division I games, including eight times at San Diego State in 19 games.

• G. Bell already ranks 20th in SDSU program history with 1,577 rushing yards in just 19 games.

• Byrd had a 73-yard touchdown at Utah State on Oct. 31, 2020, the longest by an Aztec since Rashaad Penny’s 81-yard touchdown run against Army West Point in the 2017 Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 23).

• If you take away the 12 times QB Lucas Johnson has been sacked (for 93 yards), he has rushed 36 times for 251 yards (7.0 avg.).

• Johnson ran for 87 yards against Utah, the most by an Aztec quarterback since Ryan Katz had 89 at Fresno State on Sept. 29, 2021 and the fourth most in a game since at least 1996. Including in the 87 rushing yards was a career-long 54-yard rush, which was the longest by an Aztec quarterback since Katz had a 67-yarder at Fresno State on Sept. 29, 2012 and third longest since at least 1996. n Johnson’s 10.0 YPC average led the country among quarterbacks (min. 8 att.) in 2020.

• If you take away the six times QB Jordon Brookshire has been sacked (for 43 yards), he has rushed 31 times for 196 yards (6.3 avg.) and five touchdowns.

• The five rushing touchdowns are the most by an Aztec quarterback since Kevin O’Connell had a school-record 11 in 2007.

• Brookshire’s five rushing touchdowns rank in a tie for 28th in the country among quarterbacks (second in MW).

• Brookshire rushed 23 times for 38 yards in his first career start against Colorado State on Dec. 5, 2020, which matched Kevin O’Connell (vs. San José State on Sept. 24, 2005) for the most by an Aztec quarterback since at least 1996.

PASSING OFFENSE
• Since the start of the 2015 season, San Diego State has thrown 36 interceptions. That only trails Navy for the fewest picks in the nation over that span (min. 50 GP). In contrast, Texas State has thrown 97 interceptions over that span, which is the most since 2015.

• QB Lucas Johnson is 7-1 as the starting quarterback this season and 7-2 for his career.

• QB Lucas Johnson ranks fifth in the Mountain West in completion percentage (60.96, 71st in FBS), seventh in pass efficiency rating
(121.57), tied for seventh in passing touchdowns (9), ninth in passing yards per game (90.92), yards per completion (9.57) and
yards per attempt (5.83), and 10th in passing yards (1,091).

• Johnson was 2-for-3 with two touchdown passes at San Jose State on Oct. 15, 2021. He became just the 13th FBS quarterback since 1996 to only throw touchdown passes for his completions (min. 2 completions).

• QB Jordon Brookshire earned his first career start against Colorado State on Dec. 5, 2020, completing 14 of 24 pass attempts for 130 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception. Brookshire became the fifth quarterback to win his starting debut over the last six chances (SDSU quarterbacks were 1-13 in the previous 14 debuts prior to this stretch).

• Brookshire is 5-1 as the SDSU’s starting quarterback for his career (4-0 this season).

• WR Jesse Matthews ranks in a tie for ninth in the Mountain West in receiving touchdowns (6, T-68th in FBS).

• Matthews had a career-high nine receptions for 75 yards and three touchdowns at UNLV on Nov. 19. The three touchdown catches for the most by an Aztec since Colin Lockett had three in the 2011 New Orleans Bowl, while the nine catches were the most at SDSU since Mikah Holder had nine at UNLV on Oct. 7, 2017.

• Matthews followed that up with another 9-catch game for 133 yards and a touchdown against Boise State on Nov. 26.

• Matthews is now one of 34 Aztecs with at least four, 100-yard receiving games.

• Over the last two games for Matthews, he has totaled 18 catches for 208 yards and four touchdowns.

• Among freshmen in SDSU single-season history in 2019, Matthews ranked second in receptions (48) and third in receiving yards
(633).

• Matthews had the fifth-most catches (48) in the country without a dropped pass in 2019 (according to Pro Football Focus).

• WR Kobe Smith had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in 2019, the first Aztec to do so since Ezell Ruffin had three straight in
2013.

SERIES NOTES
• Saturday’s San Diego State-Utah State game will mark the 16th meeting in series history, with the Aztecs owning a 13-2 series lead.

• Last year, San Diego State scored 28 consecutive second-half points en route to a 38-7 win in Logan. Greg Bell rushed for 157 and a  touchdown and added a 29-yard touchdown reception in the victory.

• SDSU owns an 8-2 advantage in series games played in “America’s Finest City.” The Aggies’ lone victories over SDSU came at San
Diego Stadium/SDCCU Stadium on Nov. 25, 1967 and Sept. 21, 2019.

• The Aztecs have claimed all five series meetings in Logan, although the teams have met only twice in the city since Sept. 27, 1975
(a 19-10 SDSU win).

• The Aztecs have held the Aggies to 14 points or less nine of the last 10 times the teams have met, allowing a total of 93 points in those games (9.3 points per game).

• This is the fifth time the teams have met with both being members of the Mountain West (SDSU leads 3-1).

• SDSU-UTAH STATE TIDBITS: San Diego State owns a 10-1 series advantage in the Division I era… In those 11 meetings, the Aztecs have won and not trailed six times… Prior to 2019, the Aztecs had not trailed in a home game against the Aggies since 1974… In the last five meetings, SDSU has scored 58 first-quarter points… In the last four games, the Aztecs have 1,234 yards rushing and 10 rushing touchdowns… SDSU has an edge in rushing offense in each of the last seven encounters… In the last four games, the Aztecs have 71 pass attempts, total… Total turnovers in the last four games: Utah State 9, San Diego State 2… Two of San Diego State’s top 10 rushing games have come against Utah State (407 yards in 2020 ranks 9th and 400 yards in 2016 is tied for 10th)

 

Ty Gaston

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