San Diego State survived a scare by San Jose State and became bowl eligible in front of a 30,451 home crowd at SDCCU Stadium on Saturday night.
It wasn’t supposed to be this close. The Aztecs (6-1, 3-0 Mountain West Conference) lost to Stanford at the season opener but have won every game since, including two against ranked opponents. The Spartans, on the hands, have yet to win a game this season.
It took a 51-yard field goal by John Baron II in the fourth quarter for the Aztecs to clinch a 16-13 win. Even then, the ball hit the crossbar before going in, causing SDSU fans to hold their breath for a second.
“I just want to hit it clean. Give the ball a chance to go and I hit it pretty well,” Baron said. “Brandon (Heicklen) and Turner (Bernard) got a perfect snap and hold off, so they made it pretty easy to just hit the ball well and luckily it went in.”
It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless. It doesn’t, however, mean that Aztecs coach Rocky Long is happy about it.
“We won tonight, and my father always told me, there’s no such thing as a bad win,” he said. “So there’s no such thing as a bad win, but I’m very disappointed on how we played.”
The Spartans (0-7, 0-3 MW) were first to score with two field goals by Bryce Crawford — a 42- and 24-yarder — in the first nine minutes of the first quarter. The Aztecs responded with a 17-play, 75-yard drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock and ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Chase Jasmin for a 7-6 lead.
A pair of field goals by Baron, a 36-yarder late in the second quarter and 22-yard kick in the third, gave SDSU a 13-6 lead. The Spartans then tied the game with a Malike Roberson 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
San Jose State twice threatened the Aztecs in their own territory in the fourth quarter but an interception by Tariq Thompson ended the threat and led to the Baron’s final field goal.
“You’re not really calm when any play can win the game,” Thompson said. “Everybody is used to that moment now. Like the game with Boise, we just have to figure out a way to win and that’s what we’ve been doing the last couple of games.”
San Diego State is bowl eligible for a ninth consecutive season. The Aztecs have played in a bowl game in a school-record eight straight years.
“Our program has gotten to the point right now that if we don’t win, or don’t go bowl games, everybody’s mad and wondering what’s wrong,” Long said. “So, I guess I fall into that category, too.”
Up next the Aztecs travel to Reno to face the Nevada Wolfpacks (3-4, 1-2 MW)