The Aztecs beat Cal. It’s been three days and I still can’t say those words without the biggest smile creeping up on my face.
I’ve been to a lot of SDSU football games over the years, but this one was different. In our prediction post I talked about how this game was, to me, both the most exciting and terrifying of the Aztecs’ 2016 slate. Well, it definitely lived up to both of those. I couldn’t wait to watch the Aztecs redeem themselves and avenge the 2015 loss to the Bears. And being in the stadium that night was an experience I won’t soon forget.
I don’t know that I’d ever seen Qualcomm like that for an Aztecs game. The stadium wasn’t filled to capacity, but those who filled the seats made up for it. The atmosphere was insane, which was only appropriate considering the rollercoaster of a game these teams gave their fans.
It started off a little slow. More than halfway into the first quarter, the score was still tied 0-0. Then about nine minutes in, the Bears fumbled and the Aztecs recovered. On the next play, a wide-open Rashaad Penny caught the ball and ran it in for a touchdown. The crowd. Went. Nuts. And then it died down, because on the next drive Davis Webb threw back-to-back 30+ yard passes, resulting in a touchdown to tie the game. The Cal fans in the row behind me, who I think were the family of one of the players, made themselves heard.
I was sitting as the Bears kicked off for the next drive. Penny, kick returner extraordinaire, caught the ball a few yards into the end zone and then started running it back. And he kept running. And after a few seconds I was no longer sitting. Everyone had gotten on their feet cheering, screaming, willing Penny to take it all the way.
And as he did, the crowd erupted. I couldn’t remember the last time it was that loud at the Q for an Aztecs game. But then Webb, determined to keep Aztecs fans off their feet, went back to throwing the ball deep for completions. A 49-yard touchdown pass got the row behind me on their feet once more. It was like we were on a see-saw, taking turns going up and down to coincide with the game score. Touchdown Aztecs. Touchdown Bears. And on like that until it was 28-21 Aztecs, following a pick-six by Ronley Lakalaka.
SDSU went into the locker room at halftime up 10. It was High School Band Night, so the Marching Aztecs were joined by a bunch of local high school bands who performed for us at halftime. It was a good show, if that’s what you’re into, but those 20 minutes really just made the crowd nice and antsy for the second half show we were about to watch.
More than halfway into the third quarter the Aztecs extended their lead to 17 points after a 57 yard touchdown run by Donnel Pumphrey. Aztecs fans were on their feet again. But just like in the first half, it was only a matter of time until the Cal fans got their turn. That’s when they began to close in on the Aztecs. A touchdown, followed by two field goals, and the Bears were within four.
The last few minutes of the game were some of the most intense I’ve experienced, heightened by my fellow Aztec faithful as well as our opponents in the crowd. An “I Believe” chant broke out and at this point most of us were on our feet. I can’t remember breathing a lot during this time. I remember exhaling in a huge yell as Donnel Pumphrey scored another touchdown to give the Aztecs a more comfortable 11 point lead.
But the relief was short lived because sure-as-shit, Davis Webb advanced Cal down the field for another touchdown, but a failed two point conversion try. It was a four point game with less than a minute to go and Cal was going for the onside kick. They recovered and some of my Aztec brethren slumped back into their seats.
Webb had been completing passes all. Damn. Night. And here he was with a chance to run away with the game that our boys fought so hard for. I guess the pressure got to him, though, because he went on to throw two incomplete passes in a row. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And then I REALLY couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Damontae Kazee. Hero.
After that it was kind of a blur. I remember singing the fight song after the game ended. I remember the family behind me being real sulky, almost making me feel sorry for them. But the gravity of what I had just witnessed kicked in again and I just kept saying over and over, We beat Cal. Dude, WE BEAT CAL.
And so my dream of an undefeated season lives on.