The third time wasn’t the charm for San Diego State Saturday, as the Aztecs ran into
a wall against UCLA, falling 35-10.
They won the first two games of the season against Ohio and Idaho State and enjoyed their third straight game at Snapdragon Stadium, but home-field advantage didn’t help as the Aztecs were done in by a series of mistakes, including penalties, interceptions and a critical dropped pass.
Head coach Brady Hoke credited the Bruins, calling them a good team, but he added, “I’m really disappointed in our coaching, how we reacted in several situations.”
The Aztecs headed into the game as a nearly two-touchdown underdog, and after both teams started slowly, UCLA scored first in lightning fashion.
After getting the ball back on a punt, quarterback Dante Moore threw a pass down the middle that was caught by wide receiver Josiah Norwood who put on a burst of speed and raced untouched to the end zone.
The drive, one play for 81 yards, took all of 11 seconds.
The Aztecs, however, answered back right away with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 21-yard Jalen Mayden pass to wide receiver Mekhi Shaw to the front corner of the end zone. It was Shaw’s first touchdown of the season and tied the game at 7-7.
One week after the Aztecs racked up 14 penalties, stoking Hoke’s ire, two more penalties would cost the team.
UCLA took the lead back on their next possession with the help of two pass interference calls against cornerback Dez Malone, although one of the calls looked more obvious than the other.
That put UCLA in position on fourth down and one at the Aztec’s 13-yard-line, with running
back Carson Steele taking it in for a touchdown. With the score, UCLA had a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter and never relinquished it.
UCLA added to its lead on their next possession. After their defense forced a turnover on downs, the Bruins would operate a short scoring drive capped by three straight runs from T. J. Harden, the last being a 59-yard burst up the middle to the end zone.
The Aztecs would cut the lead to 21-10 after a 44-yard field goal by Jack Browning, but they
could have had more.
On the previous play, a pass to the right corner of the end zone was dropped by wide receiver Joshua Nicholson, forcing SDSU to settle for the field goal.
UCLA didn’t let up. With the clock winding down on the first half, the Bruins took only 56 seconds to score, on a 24-yard Moore pass for another touchdown. That made it 28-10, a lead UCLA carried into halftime.
The third quarter started sluggishly for both teams until they traded costly mistakes.
Mayden threw his first interception of the season midway through the third quarter. On the next series, the Aztecs forced a fumble and recovered it for an apparent touchdown, but an
official’s review determined the ball was recovered short of the goal line.
With the ball on the one, the Aztecs would unsuccessfully try to punch it in twice. On the third try, Mayden threw his second interception in the end zone.
Hoke lamented the failed opportunities to score.
“It changes your momentum,” he said. “It changes the vibe that your team had.”
The Bruins would take advantage, launching an 80-yard drive that consumed more than four
minutes before ending in a touchdown pass to make it 35-10. From there, the UCLA defense and running game took over and bled the clock.
Mayden, who would throw a third interception, was later replaced in the game by Tobin O’Dell.
The Aztecs play Saturday at Oregon State and Hoke said, “We’ve got to learn from this one
because next week is just as difficult.”
Asked where the team stood, Hoke added: “I think we’re a good football team. That’s sincere. I think we’ve gotten better. I think we even did some things better today from the offensive
side … I don’t know if one game can measure us.”