The San Diego State University football team became bowl eligible for the 12th time in the last 13 years after defeating San Jose State University, 43-27, at Snapdragon Stadium on Nov. 12 to record its sixth win of the season.
The Aztecs subsequently topped host New Mexico, 34-10, on Nov. 18 before finishing regular season play with a 13-3 loss to the visiting Air Force Academy last Saturday.
At 7-5 overall, SDSU finished second in the Mountain West’s West Division standings with a 5-3 conference record to miss playing in Saturday’s MW championship game.
Instead, East Division champion Boise State (9-3 overall, 8-0 conference) will host West Division champion Fresno State (8-4 overall, 7-1 in conference) at 1 p.m. PST.
The Aztecs will continue their season after accepting an invitation to play Middle Tennessee in the 2022 EasyPost Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 (5 p.m. PST kickoff). The game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN.
“I’m excited that we get a chance to play one more time for our seniors,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said. “I’m proud of the way our team has fought through adversity this year and to make another bowl game is a testament to their dedication and hard work. We’re looking forward to a playing a tough Middle Tennessee team and to spend a week in Hawaii.”
“Both teams had strong finishes to their respective seasons and we anticipate a highly competitive match-up in addition to the one-of-a-kind atmosphere that fans have come to expect at the EasyPost Hawai‘i Bowl,” executive director Daryl Garvin said.
SDSU and the Blue Raiders (7-5) have never met. San Diego State is 25-5 all-time against current Conference USA members, including a 38-24 win against 2021 C-USA champion UTSA in last year’s Frisco Bowl in Frisco, Texas.
The Aztecs are playing in their 20th bowl game all-time and 16th in its Division I era.
SDSU is playing in the Hawai‘i Bowl for the second time after beating Cincinnati, 42-7, in the 2015 bowl.
The Aztecs withdrew from bowl consideration during the shortened 2020 COVID season .
SDSU entered last Saturday’s game against the Air Force Academy with a five-game winning steak at Snapdragon Stadium and three-game winning streak overall.
But the Falcons flew to a 10-0 lead on a first quarter two-yard touchdown run by Brad Roberts and a third quarter 30-yard field goal by Matthew Dapore.
The Aztecs cut into the Air Force lead on a 26-yard field goal by West Hills alumnus Jack Browning later in the third quarter to cap a six-play relatively short 31-yard field march.
The scoring drive started with a 37-yard kickoff return to the SDSU 45-yard line, followed by a 15-yard personal foul penalty to advance the ball to the Falcons 40-yard line. The Aztecs reeled off consecutive first downs on a 15-yard pass from Jayden Mayden to Tyrell Shavers and a 13-yard pass to Christian alum Jesse Matthews to the AFA 12.
The Falcons completed scoring in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard field goal.
Air Force essentially grounded the SDSU rushing attack with 15 carries for 40 net yards. Mayden completed 16 of 31 attempts with two interceptions and two sacks.
Matthews had four catches for 29 yards while Shavers had three catches for 41 yards.
Brionne Penny led Aztec receivers with three catches for 63 yards while Mark Redman had two catches for 34 yards. Penny hauled in a 40-yarder.
Browning punted six times for an average of 46 yards with a long of 57. He was 1-for-2 on field goals, missing 45-yarder in the first quarter.
Byrd topped SDSU with 65 all-purpose yards, including 61 on kick returns.
Getting his kicks
Browning was awarded the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week honor for the second week this season after he helped SDSU to the 34-10 win at New Mexico. He made both of his field goal attemptss (30 and 46 yards) and all four PATs to account for 10 of the Aztecs’ 34 points.
He also punted twice for a 52.5 average, including a career-long 63-yard boot. Browning kicked off seven times with four touchbacks for a 64.1 average while adding his second career tackle on a kickoff.
On the season, Browning has made 17 of 21 field goal attempts (81.0 percent.) with a long of 50 yards and all 28 PATs. He the Aztecs with 79 points, more than the next three players combined. Browning has also punted 63 times for 2,898 yards (46.0 avg.) with a net average of 42.7 and a long of 63 yards.
Out of his 63 punts, 28 have landed inside the 20-yard line, including 14 inside the 10 and six inside the 5. Browning also has kicked off 53 times for 3,394 yards (64.0 average with 31 touchbacks.