Traveling to Boise State, San Diego State football coach was forced to play half of the freshmen he brought with him Saturday night because of injuries.
Senior quarterback Christian Chapman and junior running back Juwan Washington were both out with injuries along with several upperclassmen.
That’s not the way he prefers to do things, but that was the way it happened.
“These young players are coming in here thinking they should be starting,” Long said. “Our backup quarterback probably thinks he should be the starter. Our backup running back probably he thinks he should be the starter, too. So when they get a chance to play, they ought to prove that they should start.”
But it was a freshman that give the Aztecs (4-1, 1-0 Mountain West) one of the most exciting plays of the night. Jordan Byrd rushed for a 72-yard touchdown that gave San Diego State a commanding lead in the fourth quarter. Up to that point, the Aztecs were clinging to a tenuous 13-7 lead.
Proving experience trumps youth, senior linebacker Ronley Lakalaka intercepted a deflected pass in Boise State (3-2, 1-1) territory and returned to the Broncos’ 17-yard-line. That led to the Aztecs scoring on the next drive for a 13-7 lead.
“There was great pressure from Kyahva Tezino,” Lakalaka said. “I was just there to make the play. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll be able to do it.”
The reigning Mountain West champions Broncos struggled to generate offense early in the game against the Aztecs. Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien entered the game without having thrown an interception this season. He threw two in the first half and finished with 21-of-41 passing for 170 years.
He was also sacked four times.
“I thought Brett showed extreme toughness today. The bottom line is he can’t protect himself out there and we have to be able to do a better job of that and that didn’t happen tonight,” Broncos coach Bryan Harsin said. “We just have to do a better job offensively and that starts with us as coaches protecting our quarterback and making sure that he’s upright and he’s able to go out there and deliver the ball and do the things we ask him to do.”