Greg Bell scores in the third quarter of the Aztecs’ first loss of the season. Photo credit: @AztecFB via Twitter

San Diego State dug an early hole against Fresno State Saturday and couldn’t climb back, dropping their first game of the season, 30-20.

With the loss, No. 21/20 SDSU (7-1, 3-1 in the Mountain West) falls behind the Bulldogs (7-2, 4-1 MW) in the conference divisional race.

The Aztecs now share second place with Nevada (6-2, 3-1 MW).

Fresno State (7-3) dominated early, building a 20-0 lead before the Aztecs broke through with just over two minutes to go in the 2nd quarter.

After Kaegun Williams returned a kickoff 17 yards, Lucas Johnson completed passes of 16 and 31 yards to Elijah Kothe. He rushed for 14 yards before throwing a 19-yard pass to Tyrell Shavers for the score.

With 13 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, SDSU drew closer, scoring on a Greg Bell 3-yard run, but they squandered opportunities due to turnovers, including two Johnson interceptions.

“I hurt us tonight,” Johnson said after the game.

SDSU finished the game with 412 total yards, but also gave up 485 to Fresno State.

“I think we were able to move the ball some, then we got stalled by one reason or another,” head coach Brady Hoke said.

The Bulldogs thoroughly shut down San Diego State’s running game early, limiting them to just 38 yards in the first half.

Meanwhile, Fresno State had a commanding 2nd quarter, building on their early 7-0 lead. Quarterback Jake Haener threw a 16-yard pass to Keric Wheatfall to make the score 14-0, before Cesar Silva added two field goals.

The Bulldogs also flummoxed Aztec defenders, as Haener threw for 306 yards and Jordan Mims rushed for 186 yards.

The defense re-asserted itself after the break, holding Fresno State to just a field goal until a Johnson interception with five minutes remaining. Two plays later, Mims added a touchdown to give the Bulldogs’ a commanding 30-13 lead.

Freshman Will Haskell took over for Johnson, and added a late touchdown on a 7-yard run. When asked about his quarterback situation after the game, Hoke indicated no preference, saying only, “We’d like to see better.”

The Aztecs hit the road to play Hawaii at 8 p.m. Nov. 6. A showdown with Nevada looms the following week.

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