San Diego State Aztecs

Former Kentucky QB Maxwell Smith will transfer to San Diego State

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As a freshman, quarterback Maxwell Smith appeared to be the future of Kentucky Wildcats football. After a change in coaching staffs and a continuous quarterback carousel, Smith won’t finish his career at Kentucky.

Instead, Smith will return to his home state and become a member of the San Diego State Aztecs, according to Jennifer Smith of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Maxwell Smith’s father confirmed Friday that his son will transfer.

“He loves, loves, loves, loves Kentucky with all of his heart; he is sad,” Carl Smith texted to Jennifer Smith. “He’s happy but sad.”

The quarterback’s career looked like it was going to take off during the 2012 campaign. After being named to the Freshmen All-SEC Team, Maxwell Smith started four games as a sophomore. During those four games, he completed 68.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns. His season came to a premature end, though, due to an ankle surgery.

Maxwell Smith was never able to recover the momentum he built as a young player in Lexington. He battled a shoulder injury this past year and never threw a pass for the Wildcats during the 2014 campaign.

As a graduate transfer, Maxwell Smith is eligible to play next season. He’ll provide an immediate starting option after Quinn Kaehler exhausted his eligibility.

No one knows exactly who will be directing San Diego State’s quarterbacks, though, after their position coach, Brian Sipe, was dismissed after the season, per the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Navy escapes with a victory over SDSU in mistake-filled Poinsettia Bowl

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America’s service academies are prime examples of hard work and perseverance.

Navy’s performance during the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl exemplified those qualities. The Midshipmen held on to claim a 17-16 victory over the San Diego State Aztecs despite an uncharacteristic performance by the team.

The game was filled with mistakes on both sides of the ball. Despite four turnovers, the Midshipmen were still able to overcome their mistakes. Mistakes that were likely a direct result of a lack of proper preparation.

Navy played an emotional and hard-fought contest against their rival, the Army Black Knights, only 10 days ago. Between that time, the academy conducted exams, which prevented the Midshipmen from utilizing their full allotment of bowl practices.

Ken Niumatalolo‘s squad didn’t use it as an excuse and overcame the obstacle despite the obvious advantage San Diego State held.

San Diego State wasn’t without its faults.

The Aztecs turned the ball over three times, which allowed Navy to stay withing striking distance. San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler couldn’t make the Midshipmen pay for their mistakes. The senior was only 11-of-27 passing with a pair of interceptions.

Navy’s Keenan Reynolds wasn’t much better. The 1,000-yard rusher only managed 26 yards of total offense. The junior signal-caller couldn’t get the ground game going or connect with his receivers.

In the end, a missed 34-yard by junior kicker Donny Hageman with 20 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

With the victory, Navy finished the season 8-5 and built some momentum for the academy’s inclusion into the American Athletic Conference next season.

San Diego State grounds Navy in first half of the Poinsettia Bowl

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The Navy Midshipmen claim the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense. The team’s triple option attack averages 345.1 rushing yards per game.

Ken Niumatalolo‘s squad is well behind its average after the San Diego Aztecs built a 13-7 lead in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Through two quarters of play, the Midshipmen only managed 74 rushing yards and 82 total yards of offense. San Diego State has done a good job dictating which ball carrier Navy chooses to run the football.

“I don’t think we’re stopping the run,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long told ESPN as he headed to the locker room for halftime. “I think we’re deciding who is going to get it. They got some good plays off the pitch that we didn’t support very well. We have a long way to go. It’s the type of game we thought it was going to be.”

San Diego State decided to keep the ball out of the hands of Navy’s dynamic quarterback, Keenan Reynolds. Long’s defense held Reynolds, who leads all quarterbacks with 1,182 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, to minus-five rushing yards in the first half.

Over half of Navy’s yardage (42 yards) came on the team’s first drive, which resulted in a touchdown. The Middies only gained 32 yards after that point.

The Aztecs have only been marginally better on offense.

Donnel Pumphrey, the nation’s third-leading rusher, managed 66 yards on 11 carries, while quarterback Quinn Kaehler was terribly inaccurate. San Diego State’s signal-caller was only 5-of-11 passing for 56 yards and an interception.

The difference in the contest was a poor pitch from Reynolds that resulted in a fumble San Diego State recovered. Five plays and 39 yards later, The Aztecs scored their only touchdown of the first half courtesy of five-yard run by Pumphrey.

Long said during his interview that he expects both teams to establish the run in the second half. Neither have been effective dropping back to pass. Navy, in particular, will likely sprinkle in some new wrinkles in the second half, while San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense should continue to move and shift to present problems for the Midshipmen.

No. 21 North Carolina saves its best for last against San Diego State

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The No. 21 North Carolina Tar Heels are developing a reputation as a second half team. During the team’s 31-27 victory Saturday against the San Diego State Aztecs at Kenan Stadium, the Tar Heels outscored the Aztecs 24-13 in the second half. A week ago, North Carolina scored 35 of its 56 points against the Liberty Flames in the latter half.

As the Tar Heels move forward this could prove to be a detriment once the schedule becomes much more difficult. North Carolina has two weeks to prepare for the East Carolina Pirates and their explosive offense. The Clemson Tigers, Virginia Tech Hokies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the next three teams on the docket.

North Carolina can claim victories over Liberty and San Diego State in this fashion, but Larry Fedora’s squad needs to become a more well-rounded team, particularly in conference play.

Despite these concerns, North Carolina can enjoy its victory against San Diego State. The Aztecs can move the football on offense and employ one of the most aggressive defensive schemes in college football. North Carolina showed the ability to adjust after the half and eventually take over the game.

Momentum finally swung in North Carolina’s favor with 13:45 remaining in the game and the team trailing by 10 points. Quarterback Marquise Williams connected with wide receiver Mack Hollins for a 91-yard touchdown pass.  It only took one play to get the Tar Heels on a roll. Williams finished the game 20-of-29 passing for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The quarterback also gained 63 rushing yards.

The next time the Tar Heels had the ball, they drove the ball 80 yards on nine plays with a two-yard touchdown plunge from freshman running back Elijah Hood. North Carolina added a field goal the following drive for good measure. And the team needed it.

San Diego State didn’t back down from their nationally ranked opponent. The Aztecs drove the ball all the way to the Tar Heels 3-yard line with 14 seconds remaining. Senior safety Tim Scott rose to the occasion and intercepted a pass in the end zone.

North Carolina is now 2-0, but the program doesn’t want to make a habit of having to turn it on during the second half every week to win.

SDSU is playing like a ranked team against No. 21 North Carolina

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After the No. 21 North Carolina Tar Heels received a slight scare last week against the Liberty Flames, Larry Fedora‘s squad is struggling during the first half for the second straight week. This time it’s against the San Diego State Aztecs.

San Diego State moved the ball at will in the second quarter against North Carolina to build a 14-7 lead. Even when the Tar Heels scored, it was the product of the Aztecs moving the football.

It took the Aztecs a couple drives to acclimate themselves to playing on the East Coast. Late in the first quarter, San Diego State finally came to life. The Aztecs moved the ball 83 yards. Unfortunately, quarterback Quinn Kaehler threw a poorly placed ball at the goal line which resulted in an 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by the Tar Heels’ Brian Walker.

The mistake only seemed to wake up the Aztecs. San Diego State scored touchdowns on the following two drives.

Kaehler was able to find wide receiver Eric Judge open for a quick 56-yard strike. North Carolina’s secondary was clearly keying on the Aztecs’ running game, because Judge was wide open for an easy touchdown. The second touchdown came via the ground game. Donnel Pumphrey was able to slice through North Carolina’s defense for a 12-yard touchdown run.

In total, San Diego accumulated 244 total yards. North Carolina, meanwhile, couldn’t move the football. The Tar Heels countered with 108 yards.

San Diego State has been very aggressive on defense. North Carolina needs to take advantage with some misdirection or play action. The Tar Heels cannot be as stagnant on offense during the second half if they plan on retaining their national ranking for another week.