Sep 24, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs head coach Brady Hoke looks on during the first half against the Toledo Rockets at Snapdragon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State fires OC Jeff Hecklinski after latest struggles

San Diego State offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski has been relieved of his duties, coach Brady Hoke announced Sunday.

Hecklinski had been under fire due to the team’s offensive struggles this season. Associate head coach Jeff Horton will be the new offensive coordinator.

“I want to thank Jeff and his family for their commitment to San Diego State,” Hoke said in a news release. “This was a difficult decision to make as I know Jeff cared deeply about this program and was instrumental to us being a 12-win team last year. We will continue to work to improve in all facets of the game and look forward to (playing) Hawaii on Saturday.”

San Diego ranks 114th nationally in scoring offense (19.0 points per game) and 127th in total offense (258.2 yards per game).

The Aztecs had just 114 total yards and six first downs and didn’t score an offensive touchdown in Friday’s 35-13 road loss to Boise State.

Hecklinski, 48, was in his third season as San Diego State’s OC. Horton preceded him and ran the offense from 2015-19, a time when the program had back-to-back 2,000-yard rushers in Donnel Pumphrey (2,133 in 2016) and Rashaad Penny (2,248 in 2017).

Hecklinski also coached on Hoke’s staffs at Ball State from 2004-08, San Diego State during Hoke’s first stint from 2009-10 and Michigan from 2011-14.

The Aztecs (2-3, 0-1 Mountain West) are averaging 12.3 points over their past three games.

San Diego State also has issues at quarterback as starter Braxton Burmeister sustained a concussion and backup Kyle Crum reportedly broke his collarbone in the loss to Boise State.

Since previous No. 2 Will Haskell elected to transfer in mid-September, that left freshman Liu Aumavae to finish the game and he misfired on all seven of his passing attempts.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Solomon Enis (21) scores a touchdown against San Diego State Aztecs cornerback Dallas Branch (12) in the second quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Utah breezes past San Diego State, 35-7

Cameron Rising threw four touchdowns as No. 14 Utah cruised to a 35-7 win over visiting San Diego State on Saturday night in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rising completed 18 of 30 passes for 224 yards while Tavion Thomas added 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground for Utah (2-1).

In what was a brutal night offensively for the Aztecs (1-2), quarterbacks Braxton Burmeister, Kyle Crum and Will Haskell combined for just 60 yards and one touchdown through the air on 7-for-21 passing.

Jaylon Armstead chipped in 31 yards on five carries, and Joshua Nicholson hauled in two catches for 23 yards and the Aztecs’ lone touchdown.

San Diego State struggled to muster enough momentum to break into enemy territory, as its first nine drives came up short of the 50. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Aztecs had a real scoring opportunity, driving 49 yards in eight plays to the Utes 26.

However, SDSU couldn’t convert a fourth-and-5, suffocating its chance at points.

But the Aztecs wouldn’t be shut out for much longer, as Krum threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Nicholson with 3:56 left to play to make it 35-7.

Two drives after Rising’s pass to Micah Bernard on fourth-and-3 was incomplete, Utah was finally able to break the scoreless tie with 8:59 left in the second quarter.

Rising redeemed himself, throwing for 75 of the 77 yards on the Utes’ seven-play drive that was capped off by Brant Kuithe’s 30-yard touchdown reception.

That score opened up the floodgates, as Rising went on to throw two more touchdowns before half’s end. He connected with Solomon Enis for a 13-yard score before finding Devaughn Vele from 15 yards out to send Utah into the break with a 21-0 lead.

San Diego State managed just 43 yards of total offense through the first 30 minutes of action.

The Utes found the end zone twice in the third. Thomas had an 18-yard rushing score and Rising connected with Vele once again to make it 35-0.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) against the Florida Gators during the second half at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Utah out to avenge ’21 loss to San Diego State

San Diego State visits No. 14 Utah on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. The two sides will have a difficult time repeating the excitement of last year’s meeting, when the Aztecs earned a triple-overtime victory.

“A miserable experience,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said this week of that 33-31 loss from a year ago. “It was not a good experience, and we just didn’t play well. But after the outcome and moving forward, it turned out to be a change in our season.”

That change largely was due to quarterback Cameron Rising, who stepped in to rally Utah and force overtime in that game. He then became the Utes’ starter, leading them to 10 wins, a Pac-12 title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

This season, Rising has completed 70.9 percent (39 of 55) of his passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns for Utah (1-1). He’ll face a San Diego State (1-1) defense that has given up 278.5 passing yards per-game this season, a mark that ranks 111th in FBS.

“He’s a whole different animal,” San Diego State coach Brady Hoke said Tuesday of Rising. “He can run, he can get out of problems, extend plays. He’s a really good football player.”

Tavion Thomas leads Utah’s running backs with 170 yards on 34 carries. Chris Curry ran for 60 yards and a score on six carries last weekend against FCS side Southern Utah in what Whittingham called his “best game as a Ute.”

Whittingham, though, said he would like to see more from his wide receivers.

“I said at the onset of the season and then through fall camp that if the wideouts could become more explosive, then that’s really the final stage of the offensive becoming where we want it to be,” he said Monday.

Utah’s defense surrendered 451 yards of total offense against Florida in a season-opening 29-26 loss, then limited Southern Utah to 85 yards in a 73-7 rout last week.

“The score aside, just playing better fundamentals and technique, particularly in the front seven on defense,” Whittingham said of the game against Southern Utah.

San Diego State, which snapped the Utes’ five-game winning streak in the series last year, is coming off a 38-7 victory against FCS Idaho State.

The Aztecs are led by Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister at quarterback. The fifth-year senior — who started his college career at Oregon — has totaled 259 yards of total offense and three touchdowns this season.

“When he first came in, we had that good connection,” running back Jordan Byrd said of Burmeister. “He’s a good guy. He didn’t come in with a big head. It was really good to see him come to the team — it really changed a lot for us.”

San Diego State’s offense has been run-heavy, with 10 different ball carriers combining for 581 rushing yards overall in two games.

Jaylon Armstead has rushed for 129 yards on 10 carries. Byrd produced two long scoring runs, 53 yards from scrimmage and 66 yards on a punt return, against Idaho State.

Utah has won 20 of its last 21, including nine straight, at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Jayden de Laura (7) looks to pass against the San Diego State Aztecs during the first half at Snapdragon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona spoils San Diego State’s stadium debut

Jayden de Laura led a new-look Arizona offense, throwing for 299 yards and four touchdowns as the visiting Wildcats surprised San Diego State 38-20 on Saturday in the debut of the Aztecs’ new on-campus stadium.

De Laura, a transfer from Washington State, connected on scoring passes of 17, 4 and 25 yards to UTEP transfer receiver Jacob Cowing. The other touchdown pass went to freshman Tetairoa McMillan, while Florida State transfer DJ Williams ran for a team-best 88 yards and one score.

San Diego State, in the season-opener for both teams in Snapdragon Stadium, managed just 232 yards. Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister completed 5 of 10 passes for 51 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, before leaving midway through the third quarter with a reported right shoulder injury.

De Laura completed 22 of 35 passes. Cowing made eight receptions for 152 yards.

Arizona led 31-10 in the third quarter, but San Diego State briefly rallied with the help of a bizarre touchdown. Arizona’s Kyle Ostendorp, punting from the back of his end zone, kicked the ball into the arm of his backfield blocker, with the Aztecs recovering to make it 31-17 with 7:46 to go in the quarter.

After an SDSU field goal, Williams gave Arizona the breathing room it needed with a 10-yard run to make it 38-20 with 13:02 left in the game.

Arizona, which entered having lost 23 of its past 24 games, scored on its first three possessions, going up 17-3, but then lost a fumble at its 32. San Diego State took advantage, with Burmeister converting on fourth-and-2 by throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tyrell Shavers with 4:49 left in the first half.

The Aztecs intercepted de Laura at the UA 40 on the next possession. But a 25-yard touchdown run was called back by a holding penalty and, one play later, Arizona’s Jaxen Turner picked off a tipped pass.

The Wildcats then marched 54 yards and went up 24-10 with 28 seconds left before halftime when Cowing caught a 4-yard pass.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Jedd Fisch against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the Territorial Cup at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As San Diego State opens new stadium, Arizona attempts reboot

San Diego State will debut a new quarterback and open its on-campus stadium when it begins the season Saturday against visiting Arizona.

The Aztecs, coming off a 12-2 season built on a stingy defense and solid running game, should have another shut-down unit, led by All-America-caliber safety Patrick McMorris. The big question is what a revamped offense looks like under the direction of quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who is coming home for his final year of eligibility.

Burmeister, who twice committed to Arizona while in high school, instead signed with Oregon before playing the past two seasons at Virginia Tech, where he passed for 2,647 yards.

He’ll try to provide some highlights in the new 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium. SDSU spent the past two seasons playing home games in Carson, Calif.

“Just to be back home and see the fans here and the atmosphere … this is a beautiful stadium that we have,” said Aztecs wide receiver Jesse Matthews. “It’s really exciting.”

The Mountain West’s Aztecs, a potential target of the Pac-12 amid conference realignment, went 2-0 against the Pac-12 last season, including a 38-14 win over Arizona and an overtime victory over league champion Utah. San Diego State held the Wildcats to 230 yards last season, but second-year Arizona coach Jedd Fisch made big offseason upgrades to his offense, especially at quarterback and wide receiver.

Jayden de Laura, the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman Player of the Year while at Washington State last season, takes over at quarterback. He completed 227 of 359 passes for 2,798 yards, with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2021.

“The quarterback position being secure adds a confidence among the locker room because you know who is taking those snaps, you know what he can do, you know what you want him to do,” Fisch said. “We feel very confident in Jayden.”

Arizona went 1-11 last season and has lost 23 of its past 24 games.

The addition of de Laura and big-play receivers — including UTEP transfer Jacob Cowing and 6-foot-5 four-star recruit Tetairoa McMillan — offers hope that the Wildcats can turn close losses into narrow wins. They were within one score of BYU, Oregon, UCLA, Washington, USC and Utah in the fourth quarter last season but often faded late.

–Field Level Media

Buffalo Matt Araiza (19) and kicker Tyler Bass (2) celebrate a field goal during the Bills  27-24 win over Indianapolis in their preseason game Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.

Sd 081322 Bills 77 Spts

Bills release P Matt Araiza due to gang-rape allegations

The Buffalo Bills released punter Matt Araiza on Saturday night, two days after the rookie was named in a civil lawsuit alleging he was one of three college players involved in a gang-rape of a 17-year-old girl last October.

The Bills received considerable backlash over the past two days and coach Sean McDermott held Araiza out of Friday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers before the decision was reached Saturday to part ways with the former San Diego State star.

“This afternoon, we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do,” general manager Brandon Beane said during a press conference. “Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games.”

The Bills released a statement Thursday professing they had done a “thorough examination” of the allegations against Araiza.

But as the uproar increased, Buffalo took another look at the situation, eventually coming to the conclusion that Araiza had to go.

“We tried to be thorough and thoughtful and not rush to judgment,” Beane said. “It’s not easy. You’re trying to put facts around a legal situation sometimes with limited information. … With it being a legal situation, there are certain things that we won’t be able to discuss.

“Ultimately, we thought it was best for everybody. It’s a very serious situation and with the serious nature of the allegations and we just don’t have the means to put all the facts together. There’s multiple versions of what happened.”

The lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court named Araiza and 2021 San Diego State teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.

Araiza is accused of having sex with the girl outside a house and then bringing her into a room where she was repeatedly assaulted and raped. The girl said the attack lasted for “about an hour and a half.”

The incident occurred in mid-October but San Diego State officials didn’t alert the campus community of the alleged rape and waited more than seven months to launch an investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At the time of the rape, Araiza was in the midst of an unprecedented season and had earned the nickname “Punt God” for his pattern of long booming kicks. He joined legendary runner Marshall Faulk (1992, 1993) as the lone unanimous All-Americans in program history, won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and finished the season with a NCAA-record 51.19-yard average.

Though Araiza had a reputation for having a strong leg, he was the third punter drafted when Buffalo tabbed him. Eyebrows were raised that day as to why Araiza fell in the draft.

Beane said Saturday that the Bills didn’t know about the alleged gang-rape situation.

“We did not know about this,” Beane said. “We’ve reached out to double-digit teams and no one had nothing on this. Nobody in the league knew about it. The names were sealed. Yes, if we had this, you know how important the character and the culture is important to me. Anything that would have come up like this, we would have taken him off our board.”

Still, Buffalo knew of the allegations earlier this week when the organization released holdover punter Matt Haack in favor of Araiza. In Friday’s preseason game, backup quarterback Matt Barkley handled the punting.

Coach Sean McDermott faced more than a dozen questions about Araiza in Friday’s postgame press conference and was clearly disturbed. On Saturday, he said Araiza seems to understand when told he would be released.

He also called the situation a difficult one.

“As Brandon said, we’ve tried to sort through a lot of information, it’s ongoing, and that to me has been one of the harder parts of this and that information continues to flow, it seems,” McDermott said.

–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

Bills P Matt Araiza accused of rape during his San Diego State career

Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza and two of his former San Diego State teammates were accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at a party last fall in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.

Araiza is accused of having sex with the girl outside a house and then bringing her into a room where she was repeatedly assaulted and raped. Also named in the suit are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.

The incident occurred in mid-October but San Diego State officials didn’t alert the campus community of the alleged rape and waited more than seven months to launch an investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times cited records showing that an athlete expressed concern to school officials about the lack of an investigation and wondered if football coaches were “trying to sweep it under the rug because our football team is doing so well.”

At the time of the rape, Araiza was in the midst of an unprecedented season and had earned the name “Punt God” for his pattern of long booming kicks. He joined legendary runner Marshall Faulk (1992, 1993) as the lone unanimous All-Americans in program history, won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and finished the season with a NCAA-record 51.19-yard average.

According to the Times, Kerry Armstrong, the attorney for Araiza, denied his client raped anybody.

“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong told the Times. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”

The Bills released a statement saying they are aware of the situation.

“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said. “Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case legal, we will have no other comment at this point.”

Araiza was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft. During the proceedings, eyebrows were raised when two other punters were selected before him.

But Araiza, 22, performed well in training camp for Buffalo and recently beat out holdover Matt Haack for the gig.

San Diego State officials and coach Brady Hoke didn’t immediately comment on Thursday’s suit filing.

The alleged victim, who is now 18, recently told the CBS affiliate in San Diego that she attended a party at the house late on the night of Oct. 16 and was approached by Araiza and was asked to perform oral sex.

She complied and said she was soon having sex with Araiza in the backyard.

She said Araiza guided her into a bedroom where there were at least three other men. She told CBS she was raped for “about an hour and a half” before the party was shut down.

The woman said she reported the rape to the San Diego Police Department on Oct. 18.

Leonard is an offensive lineman on the San Diego State football team. Ewaliko is no longer part of the program.

–Field Level Media

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