Saturday’s game against No. 23 Arizona State was much closer than it should have been.
Up 28-14 with a little more than four minutes left, many fans at SDCCU Stadium thought the game was over. So did many San Diego State (2-1) football players.
But the Sun Devils (2-1) would not be a Power-5 team if they didn’t fight to the bitter end. ASU drove 82 yards down the field and Manny Wilkins connected N’Keal Harry for a touchdown that cut the lead down to a touchdown.
After a failed onside kick, SDSU recovered the ball and needed only a first down to secure the win. But running back Chase Jasmin fumbled the ball on a 20-yard run with just 43 seconds left in the game. That gave the Sun Devils another chance and it was a heart-stopper for Aztecs fans.
Aztecs coach Rocky Long said if he had to do it over again, he would not have run the same play. Soft coverage late in the game to run out the clock was not his style, he said.
“I thought we were ahead enough that somebody back there would make a play and we have some DBs that should be deeper and coming forward after the ball instead of chasing receivers,” Long said. “I mean we — we’ll get back to this. We’re still a very inexperienced team.”
With six seconds left, it appeared Wilkins connected with Frank Darby on a Hail Mary pass, but in a bizarre twist, a replay review on a targeting penalty on Trenton Thompson ruled it an incomplete pass.
“The guys upstairs in the box saw it on TV,” Long said. “They said that the ball hit the ground. So I’m glad they saw that.”
Even without the targeting penalty, Long was convinced that there would have been a review on the play. ASU coach Herms Edwards agrees with Long on that point but differs on the outcome.
“They’re going to look at every facet of the play,” he said. “It just happened to be that they said he didn’t catch it. We thought he caught it. Felt like we had a good play dialed up to maybe score, but it didn’t work out that way.”
On the ensuing play at the Aztecs’ 35-yard line, Parker Baldwin batted down another Hail Mary to give SDSU the win.
The win spoiled the homecoming for Edwards. He played his final college season with the Aztecs in 1976 before graduating with a degree in criminal justice.
Junior quarterback Ryan Agnew, who replaced the injured Christian Chapman, held steady and threw his first career touchdown pass — a nine-yarder to Tim Wilson Jr. to tie the score at 14-14 just before the half.
“Yeah, we came into it knowing Arizona State is a great football team, knowing they run a great defense, they fly around, and we knew there was going to be a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “But we knew if we stayed to the game plan, got a physical running game going, that eventually, it was going to prevail.”
Up next, San Diego State plays its last non-conference game when it hosts Eastern Michigan next Saturday.