San Diego State switched quarterbacks to engineer a big comeback against Boise State on Friday, Nov. 26 and secure a spot in the Mountain West championship game.
With the 27-16 win, SDSU (11-1, 7-1 MW) sits alone atop the MW’s West division, beating out Fresno State, which held the advantage to go to the championship if the Aztecs had lost.
Now the conference championship game will come to Carson, No. 22 San Diego State’s temporary home, where the team meets Mountain division leader Utah State (9-3, 6-2 MW) at noon Dec. 4.
“It wasn’t easy, but it’s kind of the Aztec way right now,” head coach Brady Hoke said.
Things indeed didn’t look promising early as Boise State (7-5, 5-3 MW) shut down SDSU. They frustrated quarterback Lucas Johnson and limited the running game to just 29 yards on the way to building a 16-3 lead.
Yet the Broncos never scored again and SDSU took charge thanks to Jordon Brookshire, who Johnson replaced Oct. 15.
Hoke said he told the quarterback early this week that “we’d probably have to count on him on Friday.”
That came to pass with three minutes left in the 2nd quarter,as Brookshire stepped in for a banged-up Johnson. The move paid immediate dividends.
Brookshire opened a five-play scoring drive by throwing a 30-yard pass to Jesse Matthews and completed it with a 29-yard pass, also to Matthews.
The Aztecs got the ball back with 1:30 to play, and after another five-play drive – in which Brookshire almost got picked off near the end zone – Matt Araiza kicked a 37-yard field goal to pull SDSU within three going into the half.
Hoke credited his seniors for “the leadership that we got at halftime” as the team saw the momentum swinging their way.
“We just came together and said, there are 30 minutes left to play were gonna leave it all on the field,” defensive lineman Jonah Tavai said.
They struck quickly to open the second half, scoring on an 11-play drive, highlighted by Brookshire’s 38-yard pass to Daniel Bellinger.
Three plays later, Patrick McMorris snagged Bronco quarterback Hank Bachmeier’s pass and returned it 19 yards to the Boise State 43. After three more plays, Brookshire rushed 16 yards to give the Aztecs a 27-16 lead.
It held up, as the Broncos failed to score in the half, gaining just 71 yards on offense. SDSU’s defense pounded Bachmeier, including two sacks on his final drive. Tavai logged those two, to finish with three, along with four tackles.
Jack Sears took over for Bachmeier with four minutes to play, then with 48 seconds to go, threw an interception to Dallas Branch to seal the San Diego State win.
Brookshire finished the game with 238 yards, including 192 on 11-for-15 passing. Araiza made two field goals, from 31 and 37 yards, but uncharacteristically missed two, from 48 and 42 yards.
The win also gave San Diego State the first 11-win regular season in the 99-year history of its football program. If the Aztecs prevail Dec. 4, they will lock down their 22nd MW championship.
Utah State earned its championship-game berth with a 35-10 win over New Mexico Friday.
This story first appeared on Times of San Diego and is made available as part of the CalMatters Network.