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Middle Tennessee edges San Diego State on late FG in Hawaii Bowl

Dec 24, 2022; Honolulu, HI, USA; San Diego State Aztecs defensive lineman Jonah Tavai (66) chases down Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders quarterback Chase Cunningham (16) for a sack during the first quarter at Ching Complex. Mandatory Credit: Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports

Zeke Rankin’s fourth field goal of the game, a 37-yarder with 2:05 left, lifted Middle Tennessee to a 25-23 win over San Diego State on Saturday in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu.

Rankin’s kick capped a 55-yard drive that enabled the Blue Raiders (8-5) to win their fourth straight game after trailing by two touchdowns before the first quarter ended. Middle Tennessee’s defense clinched the win by forcing their fifth turnover of the game on a botched hook-and-lateral play at the Aztecs’ 43 with 55 seconds left.

Chase Cunningham completed 26 of 43 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for the Blue Raiders. He survived a pass rush that sacked him seven times for 76 yards. Middle Tennessee won despite rushing for negative 66 yards and gaining only 170 total yards.

Jalen Mayden was 19 of 43 for 309 yards with two touchdowns and three picks for San Diego State. The Aztecs managed just three field goals after the first quarter but led 23-22 after Jack Browning connected from 52 yards out with 5:43 remaining in the game.

Jaylin Lane caught 10 passes for 111 yards and a score for the Blue Raiders.

San Diego State dominated the first quarter, using a passing game that improved dramatically over the season’s second half after Mayden was installed at quarterback.

He hit Mark Redman with a 9-yard touchdown pass at the 7:18 mark, then found Kenan Christon with a short pass that became a 73-yard scoring strike just over 2 1/2 minutes later and gave the Aztecs a 14-0 lead.

But Middle Tennessee then found traction on both sides of the ball, even though it couldn’t protect Cunningham from San Diego State’s rush line. It hit the board on a 44-yard field goal by Rankin just over three minutes into the second quarter.

Cunningham cut it to 14-10 on an 8-yard touchdown pass to defensive end Jordan Ferguson with 3:14 left and Rankin connected from 49 with 22 seconds remaining, slicing the Blue Raiders’ deficit to a point at halftime.

–Field Level Media