Even though he didn’t start on his comeback game, San Deigo State‘s starting quarterback Christian Chapman rallied the Aztecs to a 31-23 win over New Mexico on Saturday.
San Diego State (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) had dug itself into a 9-point hole well into the fourth quarter when Chapman cut the Lobos’ lead to 23-21 with a 75-yard drive that ended with a Kahale Warring 19-yard touchdown.
“In those situations, you don’t want to get flustered,” he said. “As a quarterback, you don’t want to make stupid decisions.”
The Aztecs defense was able to hold New Mexico (3-6, 1-4) on its next possession, forcing the Lobos to punt. After Garrett Binkley’s 35-yard punt return to New Mexico’s 41, the Lobos were called on a penalty, pushing the Aztecs to New Mexico’s 30.
Three plays later, John Barron II hit a 32-yard field goal to give SDSU a 24-23 go-ahead lead with less than 3 minutes left in the game. After an interception, Juwan Washington rushed for a 50-yard touch down to seal the deal.
This is the fourth time this season the Aztecs won after trailing in the fourth quarter and the seventh straight game where the game was decided by eight points are fewer.
“It’s been a fight. Every game has been a fight. They’re always close,” Chapman said. “That’s the theme for this team this year. We’re fighters and we’re going to grind to the end. That’s how our games are going to be this season.”
Aztecs coach Rocky Long seemed resigned to that fact as well, saying that it was part of the team’s personality.
“Obviously when you don’t play very well and you win the game, you feel very fortunate,” he said. “But, guess what that’s who we are. We’re not going to change it. That’s the way our whole season has been and that’s who we are. So we’ll just have to keep playing that way and see if we can pull it out at the end.”
Ryan Agnew, who had filled in for Chapman since Sept. 8, got the start Saturday but was sacked on the game’s opening drive and fumbled the ball, leading a Lobos’ touchdown for a 7-0 lead.
SDSU had a total of three fumbles, all leading to a New Mexico score. The Lobos’ first 10 points were a direct result of turnovers.
“That’s who we are,” Long said. “We’ve done it so many times now. We’re not going to change our personality. You can’t change a team’s personality. We don’t want to get penalties. We don’t want to turn the ball over. I’ve got to live with it and it will probably cost us another game. Maybe not. Maybe not. I’m resolved to the fact so I’m not fighting it anymore.”
In his first game back since injury, Washington had 11 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Chapman finished with 182 yards passing and complete 13 of 19 attempts with no interceptions.
Up next, the Aztecs will play host to UNLV, who is in the last place in the MW West Division.