San Diego State, after leading for three quarters, found itself down with less than three minutes to go Saturday, yet the Aztecs somehow prevailed 17-14 against Toledo.
The offenses for each side largely sputtered at Snapdragon Stadium until fourth-quarter heroics – despite two almost SDSU disastrous miscues – changed the tenor of the game.
San Diego State (2-2) led 10-0 until Toledo (2-2) quarterback Dequan Finn made a triumphant return to the game – despite leaving the field on a cart with a leg injury – and led the Rockets to two touchdowns in five minutes that put the Rockets ahead 14-10 with 2:56 to play.
Quarterback Braxton Burmeister hadn’t exactly set the world afire, passing for just 11 yards in the first half and not converting on third down until midway through the third quarter.
But he turned it around on the final drive, largely with his legs and some chutzpah to boot.
The La Jolla Country Day alum started things off from the SDSU 33-yard line with an 18-yard run for a first down, followed by three straight completions, two of them for first downs, to Tyrell Shavers and Jesse Matthews.
Another Burmeister run put the Aztecs on Toledo’s 11-yard line, and they broke through to the six on a rush by Kenan Christon. But on the next two plays, the team drew five-yard penalties for false starts, charged to Alama Uluave and Brandon Crenshaw-Dixon.
Yet Burmeister gained it all back and then some. Despite being taken down, he scrambled for a couple of extra yards, pressing close enough to the end zone that he reached to cross the goal line, only to lose the ball. But his elbow had hit the ground first, and the Aztecs kept the ball at the one-yard line.
After that, Jordan Byrd, wrapping up a big day, made it look easy, slipping to the left for the winning touchdown with 41 seconds left.
Finn, after leading his team’s comeback, didn’t have any magic left, as Caden McDonald intercepted the opening pass of the next drive to preserve the SDSU victory.
Byrd, who finished the game with 115 yards and two touchdowns – one on a 43-yard run – told San Diego Sports 760 that “everything came in together and connected” for the Aztecs.
Head coach Brady Hoke, also to 760, called the closing effort “a great drive” and something the team can build upon.
“I think it teaches us an awful lot about the good things that we did and the things we gotta improve on,” he said.
Until the fourth quarter, SDSU contained the Rockets, thanks to two interceptions and a fumble recovery. But Toledo gave as good as it got on the defensive end and the Aztec offense squandered those chances.
Burmeister ended the day with 65 yards on 13-of-24 passing, with an interception, while rushing for 44 yards. Jack Browning added a 50-yard field goal – his career high – as the clock wound down in the third quarter to give the Aztecs what turned out to be a very precarious 10-point lead.
The Aztecs hit the road again Friday as they open up Mountain West play against Boise State (2-2), 27-10 losers Friday against UTEP.