Mayden's Big Night Propels SDSU Past ISU, 36-28

San Diego State's Jalen Mayden rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Aztecs to a 36-28 victory over a pesky Idaho State squad at Snapdragon Stadium.

Sunday, September 3, 2023
San Diego State football beat Idaho State 36-28 Saturday night at Snapdragon Stadium. (Derrick Tuskan / SDSU)
San Diego State football beat Idaho State 36-28 Saturday night at Snapdragon Stadium. (Derrick Tuskan / SDSU)

San Diego State's Jalen Mayden rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Aztecs to a 36-28 victory over a pesky Idaho State squad at Snapdragon Stadium.

Mayden set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback, becoming the fourth signal-caller in program history to surpass the 100-yard barrier on the ground and third in the Division I era. In addition, the super senior from Garland, Texas, is the first SDSU quarterback to accomplish the feat since Kevin O'Connell gained 101 yards vs. Brigham Young in 2004.

In all, SDSU maintained a sizable 302-34 advantage in rushing yardage to raise their record to 2-0 on the young season. The Aztecs' dominant ground game was augmented by Jaylon Armstead and Martin Blake, who each gained 58 yards with one touchdown, while Kenan Christon racked up 40 yards of his own.

Despite allowing 309 yards through the air, the SDSU defense came up with three timely interceptions, including two in the first half, which led to 10 points. In addition, the Scarlet and Black registered a crucial stop on a 4th-and-2 situation at the Aztec 30 in the fourth quarter with ISU driving toward a potential tying touchdown.

Earlier in the first half, the Bengals also turned the ball over on downs without gaining a yard after recovering a Mayden fumble at the SDSU 32.

The teams traded field goals in the first quarter, including a 36-yarder by Jack Browning, which knotted the score at 3-3. On the first play of ISU's ensuing possession, Cedarious Barfield made a leaping interception of a Jordan Cooke pass at the Bengal 32, and the Aztecs wasted little time to convert the opportunity. Two snaps later, Mayden sprinted 24 yards around right end into the end zone to put SDSU in front for good, 10-3.

Thomas Kopcho split the uprights from 33-yards out for his second field goal of the game, which trimmed the deficit to 10-6. However, the Aztecs responded with a 12-play, 68-yard march, capped by Armstead's four-yard scoring burst. SDSU overcame a holding penalty on the drive thanks to Mayden's 21-yard gallop, while Blake soon followed with gains of 12 and 9 yards, respectively, to get the Aztecs close.

ISU's next possession was another short-lived foray, as Dez Malone made a diving interception of a Hunter Hays pass at the Bengal 49 after Daniel Okpoko supplied the pressure in the pocket. Seven plays later, Browning connected on a 41-yard field goal to increase the SDSU advantage to 20-6.

However, ISU needed just 50 seconds to drive 65 yard for its first touchdown of the evening, as Cooke hit Christian Fredericksen over the middle on a 24-yard scoring strike that trimmed the margin to 20-13 just before intermission. Previously, Alfred Jordan Jr. got behind the Aztec defense for a 27-yard gain, which put the visitors within striking distance.

SDSU advanced deep into ISU territory on its first possession of the third quarter, covering 46 yards in eight plays. However, the Scarlet and Black came up empty when Armstead fumbled at the Bengal 10. 

Unfazed, the Aztec defense rose to the occasion, limiting ISU to just two yards following the turnover. Moments later, the Bengals' long snapper sailed the ball high over punter Ross Bolger's outstretched arms and through the back of the end zone for a safety, giving SDSU a 22-13 lead.

Blake returned the ensuing free kick 35 yards and ISU was flagged for a face mask penalty, putting the Aztecs in business at the Bengal 27. Five straight rushing plays followed, as Blake plowed into the end zone from three yards out to increase the SDSU advantage to 29-13.

After an exchange of punts, Idaho State fashioned its longest drive of the game, marching 80 yards in 14 plays, punctuated by Hays' eight-yard touchdown pass to Chedon James early in the fourth quarter. Jordan corralled Hays' two-point conversion pass shortly thereafter, which cut the deficit to 29-21.

The Aztecs netted just 15 yards on their next possession, and moments later the Bengals found themselves in prime position for the tying touchdown. A 23-yard pass from Hays to Keoua Kauhi followed by another face mask penalty advanced the ball to the SDSU 38. A short 7-yard pass to James and Hays' 1-yard scramble following an incompletion left the Bengals with a 4th-and-2 situation at the Aztec 30. However, the Scarlet and Black defense dodged a bullet when Hays' pass to Aaron Blancas fell harmlessly to the ground.

Just two plays later, Mayden burst through a gaping hole up the middle on a keeper and raced 56 yards into the end zone to give SDSU a comfortable 36-21 cushion with just 6:50 left in the game.

With the clock winding down, the Bengals scored a late touchdown to account for the final margin, as Hays crossed the goal line from two yards out with 14 seconds left. However, the Aztecs recovered the onside kick to secure the hard-fought victory.

In addition to his rushing totals, Mayden completed 13 of 19 passes for an economical 87 yards, with Blake posting three receptions for 40 yards.

Defensively, SDSU was led by Marcus Ratcliffe's six solo tackles, while Cody Moon and Garret Fountain each recorded a sack. Not to be outdone, Noah Tumblin thwarted a late fourth-quarter Bengal drive with an interception.

For ISU, Cooke finished with 164 yards and one touchdown on 18-of-41 passing with two interceptions, while Hays completed 12 of 22 attempts for 145 yards and another score in the loss. James led all players with seven catches for 66 yards, while Fredricksen hauled in five receptions for 63 yards of his own.

San Diego State continues its homestand on Saturday, Sept. 9, when it battles UCLA at Snapdragon Stadium, starting at 4:30 p.m. PT. The Aztecs-Bruins clash will air live on CBS.

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