FRISCO, Texas — To set a record never-before-seen in the San Diego State football record books, wide receiver Jesse Matthews — with a major assist from quarterback Lucas Johnson — went on a personal assault of those same record books to allow the Aztecs to end the football season with some redemption.
Matthews set career highs with 11 catches and 175 yards, scoring two touchdown in the process as the 24th-ranked Aztecs set a single-season school record with their 12th victory by defeating Conference USA champions UTSA 38-24 in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl on Tuesday evening. Johnson, who missed the last two games through injury, including the Aztecs’ defeat to Utah State in the Mountain West Championship Game, threw for a career-high 333 yards in only the second 300-yard-passing performance by a San Diego State quarterback in the past seven seasons.
“There have been some great teams to come through here, Matthews said. “To be the first team to win 12 games is very special.”
Two of UTSA’s stars during its history-making season, running back Sincere McCormick and cornerback Tariq Woolen, declared for the NFL Draft ahead of the game, with Woolen’s decision coming on the eve of the game yesterday. McCormick’s absence was the headliner, obvious given his production during the campaign (1,479 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns) and status a C-USA’s Player of the Year.
Woolen’s absence was inarguably the difference maker, however. San Diego State, coming into bowl season ranked 115th out of 130 FBS teams in passing offense, took to the air and exploited that void in the UTSA secondary. Both of Johnson’s tosses to Matthews, from 11 yards in the first quarter and from 20 yards in the second quarter, tied the score at 7-7 and 14-14 respectively. Ray Guy award winner Matt Araiza kicked a 33-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to give the Aztecs their first lead at 17-14 lead at halftime, a lead it would not relinquish.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Tuesday evening’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 32 pictures in total.