THAT WAS AWESOME.
Last week against Colorado State, the Aztecs came out and sank into the storm-drenched Qualcomm Stadium turf. Maybe it was a hangover from the loss at WYO the week prior, maybe they weren’t physically ready for bad weather at home, maybe it was demoralizing to come out on Senior Night to a sparse crowd huddling under the eaves.
Whatever it was, they got thoroughly destroyed by the Rams. AKH and myself left in the 3rd quarter, something I’ve never done before, driving home bewildered and trying to piece together what happened to the season that once carried such lofty hopes.
It was hard to imagine that this Instant Classic and a 2nd straight Mountain West championship were coming a week later in Laramie. And yet here we are. For all its heartbreaks, this San Diego State football team is one of the most successful in school history.
SDSU 27, WYO 24. Back-to-back conference champs.
I’m still buzzing and may not be able to crank out a fully coherent and linear recap, but here’s some high points of the high points.
That was cold
18 is cold for a Southern California team or anyone else. Didn’t matter! SDSU took their bus rides, connecting flights and shuttles back up to 7,000 feet and handled their business. One lesson from this season is that the Aztecs are mudders, so long as the mud isn’t at the Q.
That was intense
It was a shaky first half. Chapman threw an ugly INT to a 300-pound nose tackle in State’s own red zone. After falling behind 10-0, it was a relief to see the Aztecs take a 10-10 tie into the locker room. Then they stormed out and started dominating in the 2nd half, dialing up the defensive pressure and scoring twice to take a 24-10 lead into the 4th quarter.
WYO then drove 75 yards to make it 24-17 with a dubious (i.e. bullshit) 33-yard touchdown catch on 3rd and long.
Even in the championship afterglow, this is still an infuriating no-call(s). Calvin Munson got mugged right in front of the WYO quarterback, who rolled out and hit his receiver for a tightrope TD after a clear push-off on the Aztec defender.
The refs actually called a pretty good game, but it’s hard to understand what the hell they were looking at on this crucial play.
That’s the special special teams we like
Lord Baron II drilled his kicks, Rashaad Penny ripped off a 75-yard kickoff return, coverage units were solid and Tanner Blain uncorked this insane 75-yard punt from his own goal line.
That looked worse than it was
Kyle Kelley got this sack on Josh Allen in the 3rd quarter, then No. 95 Noble Hall looked like he got a nut punch on the QB while celebrating. Blind refs amirite? Wrong! Freeze that gif and you see that Hall lands on the QB’s thigh with an open hand.
Good no-call this time, ref. The sack pinned WYO at their own 5 on 2nd and 19. Naturally they hit a 66-yard draw on the next play, with Damontae Kazee selling out to sprint downfield for a touchdown-saving tackle. The Aztecs held from there and Wyoming yanked a 42-yard FG attempt wide.
Kelley also recovered a late fumble in Wyoming territory and made the game-ending sack. Kazee took Defensive MVP with 6 tackles, 2 INTs and 2 pass breakups. We won’t talk about the pick-unsixed fumble touchback.
That was baller
Too many plays to break down in this post, but just imagine a jump cut of Penny and D.J. Pumphrey planting, cutting, stiff-arming and running around a bunch of WYO dudes. Penny took Offensive MVP and Pumphrey pushed himself over 2,000 yards rushing on the season.
That’s all I got
There is much more to say and savor about this one, but I’m being paid to watch football again tomorrow so it’s bedtime for the kid. Happy Mountain West Championship to one and all. Bring on Sam Boyd Stadium and the Houston Cougars.