Chunk is a word coaches and players use to describe big plays. And San Diego State produced a variety of them to make short work of the University of Hawaii in today’s Mountain West Conference football game in Carson, Calif.
A game that Rainbow Warriors head coach Todd Graham described as a must-win went down in the scorebooks as an easy 34-10 victory for the hosts, who had to travel 112 miles one way from San Diego to play in Dignity Health Sports Park, home to the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.
No matter for the somewhat one-dimensional Aztecs when that one weapon is so effective. San Diego State demonstrated why it’s one of the better run offenses behind a solid line and a stable of running backs who could all start for Hawaii. As he often is, tailback Greg Bell was the ring leader, carrying the ball 19 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
His first score was of the chunk variety — 62 yards on a straight handoff that extended the Aztecs lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter. That was the follow up to the 51-yard touchdown run by Jordan Byrd that got things started for San Diego State. The Aztecs also produced a 71-yard interception return for a score by Segun Olubi. It was another chunk right before intermission that helped raise San Diego State’s record to 3-1 for the season.
The Warriors fell to 2-2 and return home just in time to play another marquee opponent in Boise State.
RELATED: Read reporter Stephen Tsai’s game day blog
They will have to do a better job on all fronts to have any shot. Turnovers in the first half led to 14 points for the Aztecs. Two mistakes in the third quarter by San Diego State on its own end of the field resulted in a 27-yard field goal by UH’s Matt Shipley with 5:13 left to make it 28-3. Not a good net result.
Especially when the first play of the fourth quarter was a strip sack fumble of UH quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, giving San Diego State a first-and-goal at the 10. The UH defense held, forcing a 27-yard field goal by Matt Araiza to make it 31-3 with 12:51 left. Hawaii countered with a chunk play of its own on the ensuing series as Cordeiro hooked up with slotback Calvin Turner, who turned the short flat route into a 75-yard touchdown pass to cut SDSU’s lead to 31-10 with 12 minutes left.
But it was too little, too late as SDSU used up nine minutes of clock that led to 3 more points by Araiza with 2:59 remaining to round out the scoring. For the game, Cordeiro hit 17 of 35 passes for 209 yards. He had one TD and one pick. The sophomore signal-caller also had 20 carries for 20 yards as he was harassed for most of the game by an athletic front seven. The Aztecs rushed for 326 yards as a team, but only passed for 30. The running attack was predictable enough to produce 15 tackles for loss for UH, normally a number that would produce a win.
Mistakes on special teams came to the forefront once again as well for UH. Already down 14-0 and the defense making a good stand, Melquise Stovall fumbled on a punt return deep in his own end, giving the Aztecs field position they didn’t need to score touchdowns. Bell thanked the Warriors anyway, scoring from 3 yards out to culminate the three-play, 13-yard drive and make it 21-0 in the blink of an eye.
And the Aztecs weren’t done trying to figure out ways to score. The last touchdown of the half came on a 71-yard interception return by Olubi. The zone dog appeared he might blitz, then dropped back into coverage where Cordeiro never saw him. His pass down the middle was easy pickings as he stepped in front of the intended target and returned it untouched for the score. Untouched is a word that described most of the Aztecs’ scores in the first half en route to a 28-0 lead.
Despite the big halftime advantage, it took deep into the first quarter before somebody finally scored and not too surprisingly it was the Aztecs on a chunk play by Byrd. The defense gave up three big plays in the opening period against SDSU’s vaunted running offense. Byrd saw nothing between the tackles and jumped to the outside to go up the left sideline untouched for the score to make it 7-0 with 3:26 left in the opening period.
The offensive line couldn’t protect Cordeiro, forcing the Warriors to punt. One snap and it became quite clear why Bell is among the best running backs in the country. The senior transfer from Nebraska stepped quickly through a hole, made a move on safety Kai Kaneshiro that buckled his knees as he watched Baker fly by for a 61-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 with 1:08 left in the quarter.
Unfortunately for the Warriors it was a preview of coming attractions.