New Year, Same Formula: Aztecs Football Team Rides Defense to Season Opening Win Over Ohio

SDSU forced a trio of turnovers against the Bobcats

As long as Brady Hoke is around, San Diego State's football team is going to have one of the nation's most physical defenses. That is certainly the case again in 2023 and they put it on display in a 20-13 season opening win over Ohio at Snapdragon Stadium.

The Aztecs intercepted three passes, not an easy thing to do against a team that only threw five picks in 14 games a year ago on its way to a Mid-American Conference title and a bowl win. Freshman Trey White, an Eastlake High School alum, had the first pick of the day while the next two were snagged by senior Cedarious Barfield and sophomore New Zealand Williams. All of them came on passes from CJ Harris, who is Ohio's backup quarterback.

On the final play of the 1st quarter Kurtis Rourke, the reigning MAC Player of the Year, was sacked by Zyrus Fiaseu and suffered an injury that knocked him out of the game. Bobcats head coach Tim Albin, to his credit, said Rourke wanted to go back in but the coaching staff decided to play it safe and keep him on the sidelines. Harris, though, is a pretty good Plan B. He also took over for an injured Rourke a year ago and was named MVP of the Arizona Bowl. He only threw one interception in seven games so getting him for three is a heck of a feat.

SDSU's offense got off to a bit of a slow start but, unlike a year ago, they were able to figure things out. Jalen Mayden threw a pair of touchdown passes, both to tight end Mark Redman and both coming from inside the 20 yard line. Redman only caught two TDs the entire 2022 season so his arrival as a red zone weapon could be vital the the Aztecs success.

As they traditionally are, the Aztecs offense was run-heavy. Five different ball carriers toted it 31 times for 145 yards. Jaylon Armstead led the way with 79 yards on eight carries and had the longest offensive play of the day for either team when he ripped off a 48-yard gallop that set up a Jake Browning field goal.

Up next for the Aztecs, a date with Idaho State of the FCS. They kick off at 7:30pm on Saturday at Snapdragon Stadium. It should be another nice tune-up before UCLA comes to town on September 9.

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