The team, behind 14-0, bounced back with 38 answered points, starting with an electrifying 95-yard kickoff return by Jordan Byrd with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.
With the SDSU (6-4, 4-2 MW) win, the Mountain West picture shifted. San Jose State (6-3, 4-2 MW) fell from its tie with Fresno State (6-4, 5-1 MW) – winners this week over UNLV – atop the conference’s west division.
Two other milestones for the Aztecs: the team became bowl eligible for the 13th straight year and Brady Hoke logged his 100th win as a head coach.
Quarterback Jalen Mayden told San Diego Sports 760 Byrd’s play “definitely was the biggest spark” for the team. It showed as San Diego State continued hot in the second quarter with a 22-yard field goal by Jack Browning to make the score 14-10.
Then after the Spartans were shut down, Mayden, on the second play of SDSU’s drive, threw a 66-yard pass to Tyrell Shavers for a touchdown to put the Aztecs up 17-10.
It was both the longest pass of Mayden’s brief QB career – he took over the post one month ago – and the longest catch of Shavers’. San Diego State added to the lead on a 17-yard reception by Mekhi Shaw.
SDSU missed a chance to add to their run in the waning seconds of the quarter as Mayden nearly threw his second interception – his first resulted in the Spartans’ second touchdown – then fumbled. Though San Diego State recovered, the team let the clock run out and headed into the locker room up 24-14.
But they picked up right where they left off after the break, as Mayden capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive with a 20-yard pass to Jesse Matthews. The wide receiver, a San Diego Christian alum, figured in the next drive, as his 17-yard catch put the Aztecs at the San Jose two-yard line. Jaylon Armstead finished the job, taking the ball in to put his team up 38-14.
San Jose State broke their scoring drought late in the third quarter with a touchdown, but never seriously threatened SDSU. Mayden finished the day with 329 yards on 17-for-22 passing, including 61 yards rushing.
Hoke told Sports 760 that “the whole offense came together.” The defense did their part with five sacks and eight tackles for loss. Jonah Tavai led the way with three sacks and three TFL.
The Aztecs hit the road for the final time in the regular season next week, facing New Mexico at 6:45 p.m. Friday.