So much for a defensive rock fight and getting to see a punting legend in action. In a thrilling offensive explosion by both teams, it was the Aztecs who made the most plays that made the difference. San Diego State beat UTSA by a score of 38-24 and did so in a fashion that was uncharacteristic of this 2021 Aztec team.
Wild First Half
In nine of 13 games this season, San Diego State did not attempt more than 26 passes. They hit that number in the first half. One of the players to watch coming into this one was Aztec wide receiver Jesse Matthews, who was unguardable in the first half. He would go for 121 yards receiving on six receptions and two touchdowns. Matthews would finish the game with 11 receptions for a career-high 175 yards and 2 touchdowns. As productive as the offense was, San Diego State couldn’t make the most of their opportunities due to penalties. The Aztecs committed nine penalties for 80 yards in the first half alone, including four personal fouls.
UTSA had no problems moving the ball earlier either. They opened the game with a balanced drive for a touchdown and found the end zone again two drives later. This also came without their All-American running back Sincere McCormick. He did travel with the team and watched from the sidelines, a move not normally seen by players who opt-out. But McCormick watched Brenden Brady get 13 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown during the first half. Brady would end the game with 16 rushes for 76 yards and a touchdown. The chippy and entertaining first half ended with the Aztecs up 17-14.
Busy Officiating Crew
San Diego State couldn’t avoid penalties in the first half. That trend continued in the second half as they would finish the game committing 14 penalties for a total of 124 yards. San Diego State Beat UTSA despite all the penalties. But it was UTSA in the second half that kept this officiating crew busy. UTSA finished this game with nine penalties for 80 yards, after only having three penalties in the first half.
The UTSA penalties only aided to the best offensive game San Diego State has played all year. It started with quarterback Lucas Johnson. Prior to the bowl game, he had not thrown for more than 220 yards in a game. Against the C-USA champions, Johnson was 24-36 for 333 yards and three touchdowns. He had only thrown nine touchdowns in 13 games before dominating UTSA. They also got a solid rushing performance out of Greg Bell. He would finish the game with 26 carries for 101 yards and one touchdown.
San Diego State Beat UTSA And Set A Program Record
For as back and forth as this game was for the first three quarters, the Aztecs put the clamps down in the fourth quarter to salt this one away. This was San Diego State’s 11t bowl appearance in the last 12 seasons. With this win over the Roadrunners, the Aztecs are now 6-5 in bowl games during this streak. San Diego State finishes the season 12-2, which is the first time in program history they have won 12 games in a season.