Nov 19, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; San Diego State Aztecs wide receiver Jesse Matthews (45) celebrates with San Diego State Aztecs tight end Jay Rudolph (82) and San Diego State Aztecs wide receiver Tyrell Shavers (14) after scoring a touchdown against the UNLV Rebels at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Early game, high stakes for No. 21 San Diego St. vs. Boise St.

No. 21 San Diego State can clinch a spot in the Mountain West Conference championship game when it hosts Boise State on Friday morning in Carson, Calif.

The Aztecs (10-1, 6-1 MW) control their fate in the West division as they own a one-game lead over Fresno State. However, a loss could potentially be a problem, as the Bulldogs own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 30-20 victory over San Diego State on Oct. 30.

The Aztecs have won 10 or more games in five of the past seven seasons but haven’t played in the Mountain West title game since 2016.

Boise State (7-4, 5-2) certainly needs a win as well. The Broncos are part of a three-way tie for first in the Mountain division and the other two teams (Air Force, Utah State) play their games on Saturday.

“It’s a huge opportunity for both teams for there to be a lot of things on the line,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said.

In a unique occurrence, the game will start at 9 a.m. local time (noon ET) so that it can air nationally on CBS. Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said his team will have their pregame meal at 5:30 a.m.

“We’re up in the morning all the time year-round so our guys are used to it,” Hoke said of the early wakeup time.

Avalos sang a similar tune.

“We practice in the mornings, we operate in the mornings,” Avalos said. “The wake-up is a little earlier. … We’re going to need (to be ready) bright and early on Friday morning.”

San Diego State has won three straight games but wasn’t all that sharp in a 28-20 road win over UNLV on Nov. 19.

The Aztecs were outgained 394-290 but prevailed on the strength of three touchdown hookups between quarterback Lucas Johnson and Jesse Matthews.

“I didn’t think we played Aztec football, especially on the defensive side,” Hoke said. “We’ve got to do a better job. We can’t give up big plays thrown over our heads. We’ve got to coach better. We as a staff, we got to look at some things.”

Boise State routed New Mexico 37-0 last Saturday for its fourth consecutive win. The Broncos held the Lobos to 101 total yards and scored two touchdowns on blocked punts.

George Holani rushed for 114 yards, marking his third straight 100-yard outing.

Star receiver Khalil Shakir caught seven passes for 116 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown from Hank Bachmeier on the final play of the first half.

Shakir ranks fifth in Boise State history with 2,804 receiving yards and sixth with 202 receptions. He has 71 catches for 1,043 yards and six touchdowns this season and has indicated he will likely leave for the NFL after the season.

“There’s so much that he does behind the scenes as a leader, a person and a man,” Avalos said. “He’s one of the humblest guys on the team as well, and we’re very grateful he’s been a part of this brotherhood and part of this program.”

The teams have split six all-time meetings. San Diego State notched a 19-13 win at Boise State in 2018 in the most recent matchup.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs head coach Brady Hoke walks on the field before the game against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 San Diego State hangs on at Hawaii, 17-10

No. 24 San Diego State moved into a tie for first place in the Mountain West Conference’s West Division Saturday night, holding off Hawaii’s last drive to earn a 17-10 win in Honolulu.

The Aztecs (8-1, 4-1) gained just 227 total yards and were penalized nine times for 90 yards, but leaned on their defense and special teams to get the win. The Rainbow Warriors (4-6, 1-4) managed only 260 total yards and were held to 85 yards on the ground.

Hawaii reached the San Diego State 18-yard line on its last drive, but Chevan Cordeiro’s 5-yard pass to Dedrick Parson on third down ended inbounds. With no timeouts to stop the clock, the Rainbow Warriors weren’t able to snap the ball for fourth down before time expired.

Cordeiro completed 19 of 34 passes for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Aztecs quarterback Lucas Johnson stuck mostly to short passes, hitting 12 of 16 attempts for 99 yards.

San Diego State’s only points in the second half were Matt Araiza’s 39-yard field goal with 7:41 left in the game. Hawaii got a 22-yarder from Matthew Shipley with three minutes remaining.

San Diego State initiated scoring with 6:27 left in the first quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Greg Bell, who gained 77 yards on 24 carries. The eight-play drive covered only 47 yards after a short Hawaii punt following a 3-and-out.

The Rainbow Warriors equalized just over four minutes later. On the first play after Johnson was strip-sacked, with Isaiah Tufaga recovering at the Aztecs’ 19, Cordeiro found Calvin Turner running free over the middle for the score.

San Diego State took the lead for good with 9:43 remaining in the first half. Araiza came on for an apparent 30-yard field goal, but holder Jack Browning instead took the snap and blew through a huge hole on the left side of the formation for a 13-yard touchdown.

The perfectly-executed fake field goal capped one of the Aztecs’ best drives of the year, a 15-play, 82-yarder that lasted 7:33.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA;  San Diego State Aztecs quarterback Lucas Johnson (7) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Air Force Falcons at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 San Diego State outlasts Air Force

No. 22 San Diego State took advantage of two early turnovers and built enough of a cushion to hold off host Air Force for a 20-14 victory on Saturday night in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Aztecs (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) built a 20-0 lead shortly after halftime and prevailed despite totaling only 229 yards of total offense. A Dallas Branch interception and Noah Avinger’s fumble recovery led to the first two scores.

San Diego State is off to its best start since 1975.

Air Force (6-2, 3-2) had its three-game winning streak snapped.

San Diego State, which entered the game with the top-ranked run defense in the nation (61.5 rushing yards per game) held the Falcons’ potent triple-option running attack to only 89 yards on the ground in the first half and 87 overall. Air Force entered the game averaging 336.4 rushing yards per game.

Air Force came storming back in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Warren Bryan led the Falcons back after starting quarterback Haaziq Daniels was knocked out of the game with an injury with 6:04 left in the third quarter.

Bryan entered and finished an 11-play, 57-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Dalton King to give Air Force its first points.

After forcing a punt on its next defensive series, Air Force used another methodical drive (15 plays, 89 yards in 6:33) to cut San Diego State’s lead to 20-14 with 3:59 left on Dane Kinamon’s 3-yard touchdown on a sweep.

San Diego State again was forced to punt and totaled only 49 yards in the fourth quarter.

Aztecs punter Matt Araiza, who had an 81-yard punt earlier in the game, booted a 56-yard punt to pin Air Force back at its own 13. The Falcons appeared to convert on fourth-and-7 from their own 16 with a Bryan completion to Brandon Lewis, but a chop block penalty nullified the play.

The Falcons elected to punt with 1:57 left and two timeouts remaining.

San Diego State ran out the clock, converting a first down on a 9-yard run by Kaegun Williams. Williams and Chance Bell each scored rushing touchdowns for the Aztecs as five rushers combined for 157 yards.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Carson, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs running back Greg Bell (22) celebrates with wide receiver Jesse Matthews (45) his touchdown scored against the New Mexico Lobos during the first half at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 San Diego St. puts clamps on Lobos, 31-7

Greg Bell ran for 111 yards and a touchdown Saturday night, and No. 25 San Diego State limited New Mexico to 193 total yards in a 31-7 win in Carson, Calif.

Quarterback Jordan Brookshire added two rushing scores for the Aztecs (5-0, 1-0 Mountain West Conference) while throwing for 130 yards on 11 of 24 accuracy. San Diego State gained just 336 total yards but was in control almost from the beginning.

The Aztecs’ defense made life difficult for quarterback Terry Wilson Jr., a Kentucky transfer who absorbed four sacks and completed 13-of-25 passes for 127 yards with an interception. The Lobos (2-4, 0-2) rushed for only 66 yards on 34 attempts.

San Diego State wasted no time putting its stamp on the game. After its defense forced a 3-and-out to start the game, Bell rushed 40 yards on the Aztecs’ first snap, then scored five plays later from the 1 for a 7-0 lead only 3:39 into the night.

Matt Araiza started the second quarter by hitting a 40-yard field goal for a 10-0 advantage. Brookshire finished off a drive of nearly 5 1/2 minutes with a 1-yard touchdown run that put San Diego State ahead by 17 at halftime.

New Mexico got back into contention briefly in the third quarter when Ray Leutele recovered a Bell fumble and rumbled 15 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Aztecs’ cushion to 17-7 at the 4:41 mark.

But San Diego State needed just over two minutes to formulate a response. Two Lobo penalties gifted it first downs and Brookshire cashed in a 45-yard field with an 11-yard run with 2:35 remaining to restore a 17-point lead.

Chance Bell capped the scoring with an 8-yard run with 13:05 left in the game, finishing off a 66-yard drive.

Aaron Dumas managed 77 yards on 11 carries for New Mexico, which hurt itself repeatedly with penalties and an inability to extend drives. The Lobos were flagged nine times for 86 yards and went just 3 of 16 on third down.

–Field Level Media