Jesse Matthews

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San Diego State thumps Central Michigan to win New Mexico Bowl

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San Diego State has pretty much played the same kind of game week in and week out this season. Mix a little hard hitting defense with a few timely offensive plays and shake well for a close, one-score game that comes down to the fourth quarter of a win or a loss.

For a brief time, it looked like the team’s New Mexico Bowl would play out the same. Until it didn’t. Until it very much didn’t.

The Aztecs offense broke out for their best performance of the season in the final test of the year, rolling right along to a dominating 48-11 win in Albuquerque over Central Michigan to notch their 10th win of the season in convincing fashion.

Quarterback Ryan Agnew had thrown for fewer than 200 yards in half his games this year and was nursing a lower leg injury but naturally was a breakout player on Saturday afternoon. The senior wound up with 287 yards, three touchdowns (one interception) and was surprisingly great doing down field when needed. Jesse Matthews was on the receiving end of most of the aerial display and recorded 111 yards and two touchdowns on just three receptions — all of which came in the first half. Tailback Jordan Byrd also chipped in with 139 yards and a score on the ground as well.

This being a Rocky Long-coached team however, the defense was still the star of the show for SDSU. Kyahva Tezino had half a sack and managed an interception in the game while star corner Luq Barcoo tied the FBS lead nationally when he pulled in his ninth pick of the season. The defense forced five turnovers in all (leading to 21 points) and had three sacks in one of the more impressive efforts in the still young bowl season so far.

Unfortunately for Central Michigan, that spoiled what had been one of the most impressive turnaround campaigns in college football. The fact that the Chippewas were even at the New Mexico Bowl was quite the accomplishment given they won just one game last year. Still, the general no show in the game had to be a bit of a bummer given how they had rallied to win their division and look so improved on both sides of the ball this year. QB Quinten Dormady had things roughest of all as the lone source of offense, throwing three interceptions and completing just 11 passes on the day.

Not that it mattered at all the way the Aztecs were playing pretty much start to finish in this one to notch a 10-4 campaign and close out the year on quite the high note.

Turnovers help San Diego State to halftime lead over Central Michigan in New Mexico Bowl

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The formula for San Diego State has been a pretty simple one ever since Rocky Long took over the program: play salty defense and take advantage of mistakes with big plays on the other end.

On the first full Saturday of bowl season in college football, that formula was working to perfection in the New Mexico Bowl as the Aztecs turned two turnovers into a pair of trips to the end zone to help take a 20-3 halftime lead over Central Michigan.

SDSU’s Kyahva Tezino notched the first of those takeaways, hauling in an interception off a tipped ball on just the third play of the game. The feat was matched later in the second quarter as Tariq Thompson turned himself into a receiver to snag his pick, both of which were turned into a touchdown just a few plays later by a surprisingly potent offense that had little problem throwing the football around like an Air Raid team.

QB Ryan Agnew played a big role in that, throwing for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half to Jesse Matthews. The latter was seemingly running free on every other play as he caught three balls for an ever efficient 111 yards and the two nearly untouched trips across the goal line.

For good measure, the team’s best corner, Luq Barcoo, also managed to find his hands on the football by netting a goal line interception that tied him for the FBS lead this season (his ninth). All three of those bad throws came from CMU QB Quinten Dormandy (156 yards on 10-of-20 passing otherwise), who was pretty much the only thing going on offense even with those giveaways.

Jim McElwain has authored one of the biggest turnarounds in the country this season with the Chips but they’ll have to save their best for last the way things have trended so far in Albuquerque. As hard as that may be to do, it certainly gets a lot tougher when their opponent is also executing their standard game plan to perfection at the same time.