Oct 16, 2021; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA;  Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister (3) drops to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Former Virginia Tech QB Braxton Burmeister transfers to San Diego State

Former Virginia Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister has transferred to San Diego State, the school announced Tuesday.

Burmeister passed for 1,960 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games — all starts — for the Hokies last season. He added 521 yards and two scores on the ground.

Burmeister entered the transfer portal prior to Virginia Tech’s 54-10 loss to Maryland in the Pinstripe Bowl.

In two seasons at Virginia Tech, Burmeister racked up 2,647 yards and 16 touchdowns against five interceptions. He rushed for a total of 714 yards and four scores.

Burmeister attended high school at La Jolla Country Day in the San Diego area and passed for 11,512 yards and 127 touchdowns in four varsity seasons. He considered the Aztecs out of high school before selecting Oregon.

Burmeister started five games as a freshman for the Ducks in 2017 but played sparingly in 2018 before electing to transfer. He passed for 373 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions in 11 appearances for Oregon, while also rushing for 131 yards and three scores for the Ducks.

According to San Diego State, Burmeister is the sixth FBS transfer to join the program this offseason. The others are offensive lineman Cade Bennett (Oklahoma State), defensive lineman Deven Lamp (Tulsa), linebacker Cooper McDonald (Washington), tight end Mark Redman (Washington) and defensive lineman Justus Tavai (Hawaii).

Under the direction of Brady Hoke, the Aztecs went 12-2 in 2021, winning the Frisco Bowl over UTSA. San Diego State finished the season ranked 25th in the AP Poll.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs kicker Matt Araiza (2) punts during the fourth quarter against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State P Matt Araiza declares for NFL draft

Ray Guy Award winner Matt Araiza of San Diego State announced Tuesday that he is declaring for the NFL draft.

Araiza set a single-season FBS record with a 51.19 punting average this season. The player nicknamed “Punt God” surpassed the mark of Texas A&M’s Braden Mann (50.98 in 2018).

Araiza also handled place-kicking and kickoffs for the Aztecs. But NFL teams will be seeking his powerful left foot primarily as a punter despite the 2021 season being his first in the starting role.

“To the past and present Aztecs I have had the privilege playing with, thank you for everything,” Araiza wrote in his announcement on Twitter. “… With gratitude, I am announcing my decision to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft.”

Araiza will be the rare specialist with a chance to be drafted on the second day when the second and third rounds are held.

Araiza was a unanimous first-team All-American this season. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in 1992 and 1993.

Araiza placed 37 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and had six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards. The 86-yarder against San Jose State came with San Diego State backed up on its own 11-yard line and Araiza standing in his own end zone to field the snap.

As a kicker, Araiza was 18 of 28 on field goals this season, with a long of 53. He was 3 of 9 from 50 or more yards. Overall, Araiza made 50 of 68 field-goal attempts in three seasons for San Diego State.

In addition, 62 of Araiza’s 73 kickoffs this season went for touchbacks.

–Field Level Media

Dec 21, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; San Diego State Aztecs quarterback Lucas Johnson (7) looks to pass in the first quarter against the UTSA Roadrunners during the 2021 Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Lucas Johnson guides No. 24 SDSU past UTSA in Frisco Bowl

Senior Lucas Johnson passed for a career-high 333 yards and accounted for four touchdowns to lead No. 24 San Diego State to a 38-24 victory over UTSA on Tuesday night in the Frisco Bowl at Frisco, Texas.

Johnson matched his career best of three touchdown passes and also ran for a score as the Aztecs (12-2) set a program record for wins in a season. Junior receiver Jesse Matthews caught two touchdown passes while recording career highs of 11 catches for 175 yards.

Greg Bell rushed for 101 yards and a score on 26 carries and Tyrell Shavers had a touchdown reception for San Diego State. Johnson completed 24 of 36 passes as the Aztecs outgained UTSA 489 yards to 388.

Frank Harris completed 22 of 36 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Roadrunners (12-2). Zakhari Franklin and De’Corian Clark had scoring receptions, and Brenden Brady rushed for a touchdown.

UTSA played without star runner Sincere McCormick, who opted out of the bowl game and declared for the NFL draft last week.

Ray Guy Award winner Matt Araiza of San Diego State averaged 46.7 yards on three punts and finished the season with an FBS-record 51.28-yard average. He broke the mark of 50.98 set by Texas A&M’s Braden Mann in 2018.

San Diego State moved ahead 24-14 on Bell’s 1-yard run with 11:59 left in the third quarter.

Hunter Duplessis booted a 41-yard field goal to get UTSA within seven, but Johnson connected on a 24-yard scoring pass to Shavers to make it 31-17 with 2:39 left in the quarter.

The Roadrunners moved back within seven on Harris’ 3-yard scoring pass to Franklin on the final play of the quarter. Johnson scored on a 2-yard run with 9:51 left in the game to restore the 14-point advantage, and San Diego State closed it out.

Johnson passed for 222 yards in the first half as the Aztecs built a 17-14 lead.

The Roadrunners struck first when Harris tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Clark just 2:24 into the game. San Diego State tied the score nearly 7 1/2 minutes later when Johnson threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Matthews.

UTSA took a 14-7 lead when Brady scored from the 2 with 2:02 left in the opening quarter. The Aztecs knotted it up on Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Matthews with 9:14 left in the second quarter and took a 17-14 lead on Araiza’s 33-yard field goal as time expired in the half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs kicker Matt Araiza (2) gestures before the game against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA seeks first bowl win, faces No. 24 San Diego State

Two of the top non-power conference teams in the nation square off Tuesday night when No. 24 San Diego State opposes UTSA in the Frisco Bowl at Frisco, Texas.

Both programs are enjoying big campaigns even though they operate outside the national spotlight.

UTSA (12-1) of Conference USA is in just its 10th season as an FBS program and is looking for its initial bowl victory. The San Antonio-based school could also notch a rare 13th victory.

San Diego State (11-2) of the Mountain West is looking to win 12 games for the first time in the school’s Division I history. The school also won 11 games in 1969, 2015 and 2016.

The Aztecs, though, are limping their way to Texas after being clobbered 46-13 by Utah State in the Mountain West title game on Dec. 4.

That type of beating was a stunner as San Diego State allowed 16 or fewer points on seven occasions this season.

“We are 11-2, and many football teams would like to be 11-2, but we would rather be 12-1, but that is where we are right now,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. “We can also set the school record for wins. We have an opportunity to still play for that.”

San Diego State received one break when Roadrunners star running back Sincere McCormick decided to skip Tuesday’s game as he prepares to enter the NFL draft.

McCormick received multiple All-American honors after setting school records for rushing yards (1,479) and rushing touchdowns (15) and earning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors. McCormick had eight 100-yard rushing efforts this season.

“To the city of San Antonio, UTSA and Meep Meep nation, I am so grateful for the support you have shown not just me, but the entire football program over the last three years,” McCormick said in part during his announcement.

McCormick’s exit is a blow to an offense that averages 37.9 points per game and scored 44 or more points on six occasions.

But the team’s confidence is high after the stellar campaign under second-year coach Jeff Traylor. UTSA’s lone blemish was a 45-23 road loss against North Texas on Nov. 27 but now the focus is on playing well in the school’s third-ever bowl game.

“It’s always fun to win. We don’t like to talk about it very much, but we’ve experienced that other thing this year and we don’t want to do that again,” Traylor said. “That is what is most important, for our kids to leave on a good note. In the history of the program, we’ve never won a bowl game. …

“Why not us? Some team is going to be the first to win a bowl game in the history of this school. Why not us?”

San Diego State features a star linebacker in Cameron Thomas (20.5 tackles for loss) but its most intriguing player is Matt Araiza, nicknamed “Punt God.”

Araiza won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and his current 51.4 average would surpass Texas A&M’s Braden Mann (50.98 in 2018) as the best in FBS history.

Araiza also is a unanimous first-team All-American. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in both 1992 and 1993.

Araiza placed 36 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, and has six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards. The 86-yarder against San Jose State came with San Diego State backed up on its own 11-yard line and Araiza standing in his own end zone to field the snap.

“I think that one rolled about 20 yards,” Araiza said. “Someone downed it at their 3.”

The Frisco Bowl is San Diego State’s 11th bowl berth since 2020. The Aztecs split the other 10.

UTSA lost 23-20 to New Mexico in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl and 31-24 to Louisiana in the 2020 First Responder Bowl in its previous two bowl opportunities.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Carson, CA, USA; Utah State Aggies running back Calvin Tyler Jr. (4) runs the ball against San Diego State Aztecs safety C.J. Baskerville (34) during the first half of the Mountain West Conference championship game at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Utah State annihilates No. 19 San Diego State to win Mountain West

Unranked Utah State kept San Diego State from its first 12-win season in dominating fashion, rolling to a 46-13 upset of the 19th-ranked Aztecs on Saturday afternoon in the Mountain West Conference championship game at the Aztecs’ temporary home in Carson, Calif.

Logan Bonner completed 29 of 42 passes for 318 yards, throwing four touchdown passes as Utah State took the lead after a scoreless first quarter and never trailed.

The Aggies (10-3) won their first Mountain West title in school history in their second appearance in the game. Brandon Bowling caught two touchdowns as part of his eight-catch, 154-yard afternoon, and Derek Wright and Justin McGriff each had a receiving touchdown for Utah State.

Utah State sacked San Diego State quarterback Jordan Brookshire four times, finishing with five sacks for the game. The Aggies blocked two punts, one for a safety in the third quarter that gave them a 23-3 lead.

Aztecs star kicker/punter Matt Araiza hadn’t had a punt blocked all season. Wide receiver Jesse Matthews caught San Diego State’s only touchdown pass and had eight catches for 82 yards.

On a first quarter possession, the Aggies stuffed the Aztecs (11-2) on fourth-and-1 from the Utah State 12-yard line.

Araiza’s second field goal of the game made the score 23-6, but Bonner found Bowling for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:54 to go in the third quarter, and the 23-point deficit was too much for San Diego State to overcome.

Bonner’s touchdown pass to Wright saw the wide receiver manage to keep one foot in bounds along the sideline in the end zone, and his first TD pass to Bowling was a backbreaker for the Aztecs, who trailed only 14-3 at halftime.

Bowling was wide open over the middle of the field for a 58-yard touchdown to cap off the Aggies’ first drive of the second half.

Calvin Tyler Jr. added a touchdown run for Utah State, and after he fumbled inside the 5-yard line late in the game, teammate Jordan Nathan recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown with 3:58 to play.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Carson, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs quarterback Jordon Brookshire (4) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Boise State Broncos in the second half at Dignity Health Sports Park. San Diego State defeated Boise State 27-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

QB mystery lingers as No. 19 San Diego State vies for MWC title

No. 19 San Diego State can win a 12th game in a season for the first time in school history when it plays Utah State on Saturday in the Mountain West conference championship game at Carson, Calif.

The Aztecs (11-1) have notched 11 wins for the fourth time since moving up to Division I status in 1969. They are playing in the conference title game for the first time since 2016.

Utah State (9-3) has exceeded expectations under first-year coach Blake Anderson. The Aggies have gone 6-0 on the road while reaching the league title contest for the first time since 2013.

Utah State is just 2-13 all-time against San Diego State, however Anderson is just fine with the view of the Aztecs being favorites.

“We’ve been the underdogs in most of the games we’ve played this year and we’ve overcome that and found a way to win nine games and get to the title game,” Anderson said. “It’s been a fun ride.”

San Diego State’s lone loss this season came against Fresno State. The Aztecs responded with four straight wins and dominated Boise State in the second half of a 27-16 win over the Broncos on Nov. 26.

Now the focus is on earning the school’s third win in the Mountain West title contest.

“Really excited for this next step because this is what you play for,” said San Diego State’s Brady Hoke, who was named Mountain West Coach of the Year on Tuesday. “I think there’s a group of guys who want to have a legacy and part of that legacy is winning championships.”

Still to be determined is who starts at quarterback for the Aztecs.

Jordon Brookshire replaced banged-up and ineffective Lucas Johnson late in the second quarter versus Boise State and guided San Diego State to 24 consecutive points to overcome a 13-point deficit. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 192 yards and rushed for 46 yards on nine attempts.

Brookshire lost the starting gig to Johnson earlier this season.

“Adversity is part of the job, playing sports, any position,” Brookshire said. “It is adversity, hardships, and getting through it, and that is what makes players so good. If everything went well the entire time, who knows how good a player could be, but it is that adversity and fighting through things that makes people better.”

Johnson didn’t practice Monday, according to Hoke.

The Aztecs typically win games with defense and special teams and it was no surprise to see linebacker Cameron Thomas named the Mountain West’s top defender and punter/kicker Matt Araiza named the league’s best special teams’ player.

Thomas has recorded 20 tackles for loss, including 10.5 sacks, for a defense that held seven opponents to 16 or fewer points. Araiza is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award and leads the nation with a 51.5 average and is tied for first with 36 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. He is 15 of 24 on field goals.

Utah State figures to push the pace behind the combo of quarterback Logan Bonner and first-team All-Mountain West wideout Deven Thompkins.

Bonner, who followed Anderson from Arkansas State, has thrown for 3,236 yards and his 32 touchdown passes match the school record set by Jordan Love in 2018.

The 5-foot-8 Thompkins has 87 receptions for a school-record 1,543 yards. He leads the nation in receiving yardage.

“Obviously, he’s an elite player with elite ball skills,” Bonner said of Thompkins to the Salt Lake Tribune. “So I’ll take him any time no matter how big the corner is.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; San Diego State Aztecs wide receiver Jesse Matthews (45) celebrates with San Diego State Aztecs tight end Jay Rudolph (82) and San Diego State Aztecs wide receiver Tyrell Shavers (14) after scoring a touchdown against the UNLV Rebels at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Early game, high stakes for No. 21 San Diego St. vs. Boise St.

No. 21 San Diego State can clinch a spot in the Mountain West Conference championship game when it hosts Boise State on Friday morning in Carson, Calif.

The Aztecs (10-1, 6-1 MW) control their fate in the West division as they own a one-game lead over Fresno State. However, a loss could potentially be a problem, as the Bulldogs own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 30-20 victory over San Diego State on Oct. 30.

The Aztecs have won 10 or more games in five of the past seven seasons but haven’t played in the Mountain West title game since 2016.

Boise State (7-4, 5-2) certainly needs a win as well. The Broncos are part of a three-way tie for first in the Mountain division and the other two teams (Air Force, Utah State) play their games on Saturday.

“It’s a huge opportunity for both teams for there to be a lot of things on the line,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said.

In a unique occurrence, the game will start at 9 a.m. local time (noon ET) so that it can air nationally on CBS. Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said his team will have their pregame meal at 5:30 a.m.

“We’re up in the morning all the time year-round so our guys are used to it,” Hoke said of the early wakeup time.

Avalos sang a similar tune.

“We practice in the mornings, we operate in the mornings,” Avalos said. “The wake-up is a little earlier. … We’re going to need (to be ready) bright and early on Friday morning.”

San Diego State has won three straight games but wasn’t all that sharp in a 28-20 road win over UNLV on Nov. 19.

The Aztecs were outgained 394-290 but prevailed on the strength of three touchdown hookups between quarterback Lucas Johnson and Jesse Matthews.

“I didn’t think we played Aztec football, especially on the defensive side,” Hoke said. “We’ve got to do a better job. We can’t give up big plays thrown over our heads. We’ve got to coach better. We as a staff, we got to look at some things.”

Boise State routed New Mexico 37-0 last Saturday for its fourth consecutive win. The Broncos held the Lobos to 101 total yards and scored two touchdowns on blocked punts.

George Holani rushed for 114 yards, marking his third straight 100-yard outing.

Star receiver Khalil Shakir caught seven passes for 116 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown from Hank Bachmeier on the final play of the first half.

Shakir ranks fifth in Boise State history with 2,804 receiving yards and sixth with 202 receptions. He has 71 catches for 1,043 yards and six touchdowns this season and has indicated he will likely leave for the NFL after the season.

“There’s so much that he does behind the scenes as a leader, a person and a man,” Avalos said. “He’s one of the humblest guys on the team as well, and we’re very grateful he’s been a part of this brotherhood and part of this program.”

The teams have split six all-time meetings. San Diego State notched a 19-13 win at Boise State in 2018 in the most recent matchup.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; San Diego State Aztecs wide receiver Jesse Matthews (45) makes a touchdown reception against UNLV Rebels defensive back Bryce Jackson (24) at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Lucas Johnson’s 3 TD passes lift No. 19 SDSU over UNLV

Lucas Johnson threw three touchdown passes to Jesse Matthews, helping No. 19 San Diego State escape Las Vegas with a 28-20 victory over UNLV in Mountain West play on Friday night.

Andrew Aleki returned an interception for touchdown for the second time this season for the Aztecs (10-1, 6-1 MW), who reached double digits in victories for the fifth time in the past seven seasons. Seyddrick Lakalaka added an interception to end the Rebels’ last drive.

UNLV’s Justin Rogers replaced injured Cameron Friel in the second quarter and completed 15 of 21 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Junior Steve Jenkins caught five passes for a career-high 176 yards while Zyell Griffin and Giovanni Fauolo had scoring receptions for the Rebels (2-9, 2-5).

Jacoby Windman racked up three sacks for UNLV, but star runner Charles Williams was held to 35 yards on 16 carries.

Johnson completed 18 of 24 passes for 192 yards and one interception for the Aztecs, and Matthews caught nine passes for 75 yards. The West division leaders were outgained 394 yards to 290 while beating the Rebels for the 16th time in the past 20 meetings.

Friel was carted off with a toe injury early in the second quarter. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 67 yards and the interception Aleki brought back for a score.

The Rebels pulled within 21-17 in the third quarter after driving 94 yards on six plays. Rogers teamed up with Jenkins on an 80-yard pass play to the San Diego State 6-yard line and later tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Fauolo with 8:24 left in the period.

Daniel Gutierrez kicked a 22-yard field goal with 1:13 left in the third quarter to pull UNLV within one.

San Diego State stretched its lead to eight on Johnson’s 7-yard scoring pass to Matthews with 3:33 left in the contest. Lakalaka intercepted Rogers with 1:45 remaining, and the Aztecs ran out the clock.

Johnson and Matthews teamed up on their first two touchdowns late in the second quarter as San Diego State took a 21-10 halftime lead.

Matthews caught a 4-yard scoring pass from Johnson to give the Aztecs a 14-10 edge with 2:31 left. They connected again on a 24-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left.

The Aztecs’ first points came when Aleki picked up the interception off a deflection and returned it 16 yards to give his team a 7-3 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter.

UNLV moved ahead 10-7 when Rogers connected with a wide-open Griffin on a 43-yard scoring pass with 6:13 left in the half.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Carson, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs tight end Daniel Bellinger (88) runs the ball against Nevada Wolf Pack defensive back JoJuan Clairborne (8) during the first half at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Late field goal lifts No. 22 San Diego State over Nevada

Matt Araiza kicked a 35-yard field goal with 1:21 left Saturday night to lift No. 22 San Diego State to a 23-21 win over Nevada in Carson, Calif.

The result allowed the Aztecs (9-1, 5-1 Mountain West) to take sole possession of first place in the conference’s West Division. They will play for the conference title if they can win their final two games, at UNLV and against Boise State.

San Diego State drove 53 yards in 12 plays to set up Araiza’s third field goal of the night. The key plays were Lucas Johnson passes of 19 yards to Elijah Kothe and 17 yards to TJ Sullivan that made Araiza’s kick a relative chip shot.

The Wolfpack (7-3, 4-2) had a final drive to win it, but Carson Strong’s fourth-and-2 throw for Melquan Stovall from their 49 was broken up by Patrick McMorris at the Aztecs’ 40 with 42 seconds left.

Strong completed 34 of 48 passes for 350 yards and all three Nevada touchdowns, including a 54-yard catch-and-run to Romeo Doubs with 9:57 remaining in the game to give the Wolfpack a one-point edge.

Johnson hit on 21 of 34 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown, while Greg Bell rushed 16 times for 104 yards for San Diego State. It outrushed Nevada 186-8.

San Diego State initiated scoring with 3:42 left in the first quarter when Johnson flipped a 2-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Bellinger, capping a 12-play, 99-yard drive that ate more than 5 1/2 minutes off the clock.

Nevada wasted little time tying the score. Strong got his arm cranking on an 85-yard march that ended on the first play of the second quarter when he connected with Tory Horton on a 28-yard scoring strike.

The Aztecs grinded out another drive that lasted more than five minutes, regaining a 10-7 edge when Araiza converted a 48-yard field goal at the 9:35 mark. Araiza had a chance to put them ahead by six points on the half’s final play, but he came up short on a 55-yard attempt.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs kicker Matt Araiza (2) gestures after a made field goal during the second quarter against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Nevada aiming for fourth straight win over No. 22 San Diego State

If No. 22 San Diego State wins the Mountain West Conference football championship, the argument can be made that the league’s Most Valuable Player is a punter/kicker.

But Matt Araiza isn’t just any kicker, as he’s made abundantly clear while making the difference in multiple wins this year. Araiza and the Aztecs try to take control of the MWC’s West Division on Saturday night when they host Nevada in Carson, Calif.

Araiza’s footprints were literally all over last week’s 17-10 win at Hawaii. He averaged 49.6 yards on five punts, including a 79-yarder that soared over not one but two return men, and downed two punts inside the 20.

For good measure, he tacked on a 39-yard field goal with 7:41 left in the game that gave San Diego State (8-1, 4-1 MWC) a two-score lead, and boomed one kickoff so far that it struck an upright. That meant it traveled 75 yards in the air.

Little wonder that the Aztecs enjoyed an 8-yard advantage in average starting field position, no small thing when one considers how ordinary their offense has been most of the year.

“Matt again hit a punt 79 yards,” said San Diego State coach Brady Hoke. “I thought our special teams was pretty good.”

Operative word being “again.” Araiza has drilled 15 punts at least 60 yards this year and is averaging 51.9 yards per boot, nearly a yard more than the NCAA single-season record set by Texas A&M’s Braden Mann in 2018.

Araiza’s thunderous left leg is a prime reason why the Aztecs’ defense has been so stout. Opponents are frequently forced to play long fields against a good unit and simply can’t go 80 yards or more with consistency. San Diego State ranks in the top 10 nationally in several different categories, including sixth in rushing defense at 91.2 yards per game.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack (7-2, 4-1) are aiming for their fourth straight win over the Aztecs, one that would all but clinch a spot in the MWC title game. They are coming off a 27-24 win last week over San Jose State, courtesy of Brandon Talton’s 45-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.

Nevada owns the conference’s top scoring offense at 36.4 points per game, but its defense may have made the difference last week. The Wolfpack got touchdowns from linebacker Daiyan Henley and defensive back Berdale Robins, marking the second straight game that the defense has scored twice.

“The offense was struggling in the first half and the defense just said, ‘We got you, we got you and we’re going to be fine,’” Nevada coach Jay Norvell said to the Reno Gazette Journal. “I don’t know that our team would have done that last year. This showed a lot of character, a lot of class.”

The Wolfpack have forced 18 turnovers, 10th most in FBS. But their identity remains one of a passing team, thanks to quarterback Carson Strong. He’s fourth in the country with 3,197 passing yards and is ranked 10th nationally in completion percentage at 70.5.

Despite Nevada’s recent success in head-to-head matchups, the Aztecs lead the all-time series 7-6.

–Field Level Media