SDSU’s Lack of Big Plays Puts Them 2-8

San Diego State was again in a ball game. But as a 2-8 season goes, big plays are elusive.

It happened again Saturday against the Utes. The Aztecs matched up well with the Utes, but couldn’t get the plays to get them over the top.

“Utah believes a lot in what we do, but they do it better,” San Diego State coach Ted Tollner said. “Both our clubs love to pound the ball.”

The last time Aztec standout running back Larry Ned came into Rice-Eccles Stadium, he left with 203 yards on 18 carries, including runs of 33, 43 and 77 yards.

But big plays by Ned, the nation’s second leading rusher coming into the game, or by QB Lon Sheriff were non-existent Saturday. SDSU had only one play more than 20 yards, and it led to the team’s only score.

After a scoreless first, San Diego State got on the board. Following a 14 yard run by Ned, the Aztecs got a pass interference call to move the ball to midfield. The next play, Sheriff hit Greg J.R. Tolver on a wide receiver screen. With 6 foot-4, 305 lb. offensive tackle Chester Pitts paving the way, Tolver carried the ball 38 yards to the Utah 12.

“We knew the U corners were susceptible to attack. But (after the big play), we got away from it. We didn’t take advantage of it,” said Tolver, who had 11 catches and 140 yards on the day.

But after two short Ned runs and an incompletion, San Diego State had to settle on a 26 yard field goal by Tommy Kirovski.

That was the only good SDSU drive that resulted in points.

On the Aztecs’ opening drive of the game, they marched eight plays and had a 1st and 10 on the U 30. But an incompletion and two sacks later resulted in a pooch punt.

“If we’d get a play, we’d fumble the ball or get a penalty, something to kill momentum,” Ned said.

However, the game was still within reach at 10-3 until Utah running back Adam Tate busted a 73-yard touchdown run with 10:08 in the fourth quarter.

“It was missed tackling, that’s all it was,” said defensive tackle Jerome Haywood, who had two tackles for loss, five overall. “They caught us slipping, and they took advantage of it.”

Although the SDSU defense held the Ute ground game in check the majority of the game, Tate’s run put the U run total to 225 yards.

“We didn’t make big plays on defense,” strong safety Will Demps said. “We’ve got to give them a lift.”

The defense had no picks, but forced two Dameon Hunter fumbles, both recovered by Utah.

Still, SDSU was in reach at 17-3 with ten minutes in the game. After the Tate run, the Aztecs pushed the ball to the Utah 21 before imploding. A holding penalty and a bad shotgun snap forced the Aztecs into an unsuccessful 4th and 28 from the Utah 42.

Again on their last possession, SDSU drove to midfield before Ute Arnold Parker picked off QB Sheriff with 4:43 left.

“The game is close and something happens, and all of the sudden it’s a loss,” Tolver said.

But coach Tollner wasn’t overall disappointed. “I thought we played with great courage, not only defensively,” he said. “We just didn’t make plays, but I thought we gave a good effort.”

The Aztec star senior running back, who will play his last collegiate game against Wyoming next Saturday, agreed. “We left our body, heart and soul on the field.”

But without the big play, it didn’t matter.