San Diego State and San Jose State were both 2-0 when they started their Friday night showdown. The Aztecs made far too many mistakes to stay undefeated.
A trio of turnovers in the 2nd half handed the Spartans a 28-17 win at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.
On the very first series of the game Spartans quarterback Nick Starkel, an NFL prospect who threw for nearly 500 yards a week ago, took a shot from Aztecs defensive lineman Cameron Thomas. He walked slowly from the field and didn't play the rest of the game.
The Aztecs weren't able to take advantage of his absence, getting off to a slow start offensively after averaging 36 points in their first two outings. They had a 3-0 lead in the 2nd quarter when Greg Bell found the end zone on a 5-yard TD run to make it a 10-0 lead.
Sophomore Nick Nash, replacing Starkel, took a while to get going. With less than a minute left in the half he found tight end Derrick Deese Jr. for a 4-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 10-7.
In the 3rd quarter the Spartans were threatening again but Nash had a pass sail on him and Tariq Thompson was there to pick it off. It's Thompson's 12th career interception, moving him into 10th place all-time in Mountain West Conference history.
On their very next possession, Nash hit Bailey Gaither for a 3-yard touchdown to put the Spartans up 14-10. It took 11 quarters but the Aztecs finally trailed in a football game in 2020. How did they respond?
Just fine thanks.
SDSU marched right down the field, going 69 yards on seven plays and scoring on a 5-yard TD run by Greg Bell to go back on top 17-14. The defense forced a punt so the Aztecs had a chance to take a 2-possession lead but sophomore quarterback Carson Baker made a bad choice,
Baker was about to be sacked when he tried to get rid of the ball but it ended up going backwards for a fumble that SJSU recovered at the Aztecs 17-yard line. It was the first turnover the Aztecs have committed this season and it cost them seven points. Tyler Nevens scored two plays later and the Spartans had a 21-17 lead.
The Aztecs got inside the red zone but Baker thought tight end Daniel Bellinger was going one way. He went the other and the pass was picked off in the end zone by safety Tre Jenkins.
Again the defense forced a punt ... but Jordan Byrd didn't call for a fair catch and got hammered as the ball arrived. He fumbled, the Spartans recovered and it was just about over. Nash ran in for a 14-yard TD to put it out of reach. SJSU starts a season 3-0 for the first time since 1982.
The Aztecs fall to 2-1. They host Hawaii next Saturday.