ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — If there's one constant about San Diego State this season, it's going to be a close game. And coach Rocky Long is ok with that.
The Aztecs committed three big turnovers, had nine costly penalties and had to come back from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat New Mexico 31-23 on Saturday.
"What we do is we keep hanging in there, we keep fighting and we keep playing," he said. "And all but twice we've won. I think we're 7-2 right now and that's as good as a whole bunch of teams and better than a whole bunch of teams in the country. So that's who we are and we're going to live with it."
San Diego State (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) had played six straight games that were decided by seven points or less, and this one was close as well until Juwan Washington broke off a 50-yard touchdown run with 55 seconds left.
"That's who we are," Long said. "We've done it so many times now. We're not going to change out personality. You can't change a team's personality. We don't want to get penalties. We don't want to turn the ball over. I've got to live with it and it will probably cost us another game. Maybe not. Maybe not. I'm resolved to the fact so I'm not fighting it anymore."
Despite the late hole, Long said he wasn't really concerned.
"I didn't feel comfortable, but I didn't think we were going to lose if that's your question," he said. "I felt like we were going to win. I felt like we were going to win the whole time. I was just waiting for the play to make it happen. "
There was no one play, but the Aztecs scored the game's final 17 points to take the victory.
"Obviously when we you don't play very well and you win the game, you feel very fortunate," Long said. "But, guess what that's who we are. We're not going to change it. That's the way our whole season has been and that's who we are. So we'll just have to keep playing that way and see if we can pull it out at the end.'
Washington had 95 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 11 carries and quarterback Christian Chapman rallied the Aztecs late in the victory, while a John Baron II field goal put San Diego State ahead for good at 24-23 with 2:56 to play.
The trailed 23-14 after the Lobos (3-6, 1-4) only sustained touchdown drive of the game with 10 minutes remaining.
But Chapman rallied his squad with a 75-yard scoring drive.
"In those situations, you don't want to get flustered," Chapman said. "As a quarterback you don't want to make stupid decisions."
After the San Diego State defense held New Mexico on the next possession, Garrett Binkley returned the punt 35 yards to the Lobos 41.
New Mexico was then called for its first penalty, roughing the passer, with 5:25 left, pushing the Aztecs to the Lobos 30. Three plays later, Baron hit the go-ahead 32-yard field goal.
Following a San Diego State interception, Washington went 50 yards for a touchdown to seal it.
"I think we've been doing it all season," Chapman said. "It's been a fight. Every game has been a fight. They're always close. That's the theme for this team this year. We're fighters and we're going to grind to the end. That's how are games are going to be this season."
The Lobos finished the first half with two complete passes, both of which went for negative yards. They didn't get into the positive yardage column until late in the third quarter and finished with 41 yards passing.
New Mexico's 10 first-half points, however, were the direct result of two fumble recoveries by Adebayo Soremekun, including one that he returned 44 yards for a touchdown. The Lobos also had a short field in the third quarter thanks to a third fumble recovery, leading to another touchdown.
"I thought our defense, as beat up as we are, played pretty physical," New Mexico coach Bob Davie said.
GIVETH & TAKETH
That the Aztecs lost the turnover edge is not really news - at least this season. San Diego State entered the game with 11 turnovers and eight takeaways, quite a contrast from the previous three seasons when the Aztecs averaged 27 takeaways versus 13 turnovers.
"It's a huge concern because anytime we turn the ball over, it gives the other team momentum," Long said. "And in this case they even scored off a turnover and had a real short field off of turnovers."
New Mexico's three fumble recoveries give them six in the past two games after three in the first seven games.
Chapman, who missed six games with a knee sprain, entered the game in the second quarter and went the rest of the way, finishing 13-for-19 for 182 yards and one touchdown. Washington also was an injured returnee, coming back from a fractured clavicle that cost him four games.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE
New Mexico was outscored 99-26 in its previous two games to Fresno State and Utah State.
The win keeps alive San Diego State's drive to reach win 10 wins for a fourth straight season, which would be a program record. Only six other schools have accomplished that feat, all from the Power 5 conferences.
New Mexico's loss means it needs to sweep its final three games to become bowl eligible for the third time in four seasons.
San Diego State is at home Nov. 10 to meet UNLV, which is in last place in the conference's West Division.
New Mexico plays at Air Force on Nov. 10. The loser of that game will drop into sole possession of last place in the Mountain Division.