Coming into Saturday’s game against UNLV, San Diego State was a 23-point favorite but by the end of the night, the Aztecs lost to the Rebels, 27-24, at SDCCU Stadium.
The loss was a stunning upset as the Aztecs squandered an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, but coach Rocky Long said he wasn’t surprised by it by one bit.
“That’s the way we’ve been playing all year,” he said. “Except for a couple games this season, and this was our 10th game, we’ve been playing just like you saw tonight all year long. … That’s the way our team is.”
SDSU (7-3, 4-2 Mountain West) was leading 24-13 at the start of the fourth quarter after Ryan Agnew threw a 34-yard pass to Tim Wilson Jr. for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter.
UNLV (3-8, 1-5) rallied back for 14 unanswered points starting with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Max Gilliam’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Pressley. The Rebels then forced a punt and took over at their own 8-yard line. Four plays later, UNLV’s running back Lexington Thomas took the ball down the middle then cut to the side for a 75-yard touchdown run.
“One thing broke and they won the game,” Long said. “That doesn’t mean it got away from you. They made one big play. It was a third and twenty and we played soft and the quarterback scrambled for the first down, that’s a mistake on my part. I shouldn’t have played that defense.”
Quarterback Christian Chapman started in Saturday’s game, his first start since Sept. 8 and was expected to make big plays. Instead, he threw an interception on the third pass attempt. Chapman ended the night with 92 yards with eight completions on 10 attempts, including a TD pass to Wilson.
Agnew entered the game right after the scoring drive as planned and remained for the rest of the game because Long said he was moving the ball better than Chapman was.
UNLV was leading for most of the first half until Juwan Washington rushed for a 2-yard touchdown to give SDSU the lead with 28 seconds left in the second quarter.
A 33-yard field goal by John Baron II and a touchdown by Wilson late the in the third quarter extended the Aztecs lead to 11 points to start the fourth.
“We were up by 11 and we felt like the game was in our hands,” senior safety Parker Baldwin said. “We just got complacent.”
The loss the Aztecs’ first against the Rebels at home since the 2000 season. SDSU also snapped a four-game winning streak against UNLV and a seven-game home winning streak — one of the longest active winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“I’m so happy for our guys. It’s been a long season,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “You have all these guys out, and
for the guys to just keep coming out to work and just stay the course not listening to the outside noise and believe in themselves — you do that and you give yourself a chance in games like this.”
With the loss, SDSU will need some help getting to the Mountain West championship game. Even if the Aztecs win the remainder of their regular season games, they would need Nevada to lose at least one its remaining game to advance. Nevada holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over SDSU because of a 28-24 loss to the Wolf Pack last month.
Up next, SDSU heads to Fresno State to face off against the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.