LAS CRUCES – San Diego State entered the game as a 31-point favorite against New Mexico State.
The Aztecs didn’t cover, but did rattle off 28 unanswered points for a 28-10 victory over the Aggies in Carson, California on Saturday.
The Aztecs won their season opener while the Aggies dropped to 0-2 on the season and lost their 12th straight road game. They play at rival New Mexico next week.
The Aggies had scoring drives of 75 and 90 yards in the first half and forced a turnover in the red zone for a 10-0 halftime lead.
“As a team, we need to find a way to be more consistent and play a complete game,” Aggies coach Doug Martin said. “We’ve found a way to play a strong half so far, but we need to learn to play a full game.”
But after gaining 248 yards in the first half, the Aggies were outscored 21-0 in the third quarter with three turnovers, including a Jonah Johnson interception returned by Andrew Aleki 25 yards for a touchdown that put the Aztecs up 21-10.
It was Johnson’s third interception of the third quarter and he was pressured on all of them. Johnson took a deep shot down the sideline as he was hit, but safety Tayler Hawkins outwrestled Jared Wyatt along the sideline.
The Aggies looked to have the Aztecs stopped on an incomplete pass on third down near midfield, but NM State corner DJ McCullough hit Aztecs running back Chance Bell late and was whistled for a 15-yard personal foul penalty to the Aggies 29. Two plays later, Brookshire scored from 18 yards out to put the Aztecs up 14-10, but it felt like the beginning of the end.
After rushing for just 89 yards in the first half, the Aztecs finished with 252 yards on the ground, powered by Greg Bell’s 165 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.
Dominic Gicinto scored the Aggies first touchdown of the season, grabbing a short pass from Jonah Johnson and racing in to score from eight yards out to put the Aggies up 10-0 with 10:42 left in the second quarter and cap a 12-play, 90-yard scoring drive.
But it was the last time the Aggies scored. Johnson was 21 for 31 in the first half for 214 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but went 13 for 25 for 112 yards in the second half with three interceptions and was sacked five times.
“In the second half, we did not protect (Johnson) at all,” Martin said. “We are lucky that we didn’t get him injured tonight. We need to play a lot better up front if we are going to do anything on offense.”
The Aggies offense took a significant hit late in the first half when Gicinto left the game for what turned out to be a right arm injury that ended what was a fantastic first half. Gicinto had seven receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but the Aggies lacked the big play threat when he left the game.
A New Mexico State spokesman told the Sun-News Gicinto will miss the remainder of the season.
The Aggies held an opponent scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2016 against Texas State. San Diego State was forced to punt five times in the first half and the Aggies outgained SDSU 248-104 in the first half. The first time the Aztecs reached the red zone, Donovan King stripped running back Greg Bell at the Aggies 10 and Torren Union recovered.
The Aggies forced three turnovers on Saturday, including a crazy sequence to start the third.
The Aztecs cut the lead to 10-7 with a three play drive on their opening possession. Johnson was pressured and intercepted on the next possession, but Caleb Mills intercepted Brookshire on the next play. The Aggies couldn’t move the ball and were forced to punt, but Aztecs running back Jordan Byrd muffed the punt and Michael Bowe recovered near midfield.
But the Aggies could not score off their turnovers while the Aztecs scored 14 points off of Aggies turnovers.