The San Diego State football Aztecs opened their 2018 season with a 31-10 loss to the 13th-ranked Stanford Cardinal. They’re called the Cardinal because their old nickname was Indians. That’s right, smarter-than-thou “West Coast Ivy” Stanford is actually no better and no less culturally exploitative than SDSU.
Except that Stanford stopped appropriating the Indian nickname in 1972, right after winning their second straight Rose Bowl. Stanford has won eight Rose Bowls. They played in the first (and almost last) Rose Bowl in 1902.
So maybe Stanford is a little different than us.
On this night the main observable difference was how Big and Tall the Cardinal receivers were in relation to our State school defensive backs. Specifically one Jose Joaquin Arcega-Whiteside, who lit up the Aztecs for 226 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions.
Three of four Kabeer scribblers predicted an Aztecs loss in our game preview (the fourth has assumed the emotionally perilous role of unabashed optimist for this season, bless his heart). Here’s what I guessed:
Can’t predict ball, except when getting torched over the top is predictable.
For most of the first half the Aztecs were the better team, dominating the favored Cardinal and shutting down hyped running back Bryce Love. On SDSU’s second drive of the game Juwan Washington started to bust loose, almost singlehandedly giving the Aztecs a 7-0 lead.
A big turning point in the half was the only SDSU takeaway, which on the same play became the only SDSU turnover. On a Stanford 3rd and 5 linebacker Andrew Aleki batted a K.J. Costello pass in the air and into the hands of Noble Hall for his first career interception. Big man Hall immediately had eyes for the end zone but never saw receiver turned instant defender Trenton Irwin coming to blast him from his left, separate the ball and make the recovery. A thousand Barrys screamed in unison MARLON MCCREE fall on the ball goddamnit aaauuuugh
That gave STAN a new set of downs, which they converted three plays later into a 38-yard touchdown to Arcega-Whiteside, giving Tree their first offensive score and first lead of the game with 28 seconds to go in the half. SDSU had pretty well stonewalled Stanford to that point so the pick-turned-fumble turned 9-7 halftime deficit was a harsh twist of fate.
The Chapman scramble in the end zone turned attempted fumble turned grounding for a safety wasn’t very good either. Giving the other team two points and the ball when your defense is shutting them out is never good. Chap Man, Mr. Reliable, best winning QB in school history.
But the real Turning Point of the game was the third touchdown pass to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who you’d hope after his first two touchdowns would be better covered on third and long. He wasn’t.
Let’s look at it closer. SDSU had just ended its best drive of the second half with a Lord Baron field goal that brought the Aztecs within six. The ensuing Stanford possession started well with another Baron touchback, a holding penalty, a four-yard pass, and a one-yard run by Love. Then “Watchin’ the Detectives” Costello dropped back to pass on 3rd and 15.
The sideline shot at Stanford Stadium looks like it’s shot from a blimp but Arcega-Whiteside is the Stanford receiver at the top of the screen. Costello drops back into a clean pocket and is locked in on him.
SDSU drops seven defenders into coverage. The Aztecs don’t have safeties per se; I think “Aztec” Parker Baldwin is kind of a free safety but I’m never really sure how it works. Cornerback Tyree Woods is on Arcega-Whiteside. Two slot receivers are covered by two defenders each. The middle linebacker (?) is covering the back judge.
Costello steps up into the pocket unmolested, staring down his leading receiver. Three defenders converge on the slot receiver. Another defender peels off to cover the back judge. Woods is on an island with Arcega-Whiteside.
Woods scrambles to catch up to the bigger, taller receiver, gets tangled up and falls on his back as Arcega-Whiteside easily collects the pass and takes it to the house for an 80-yard touchdown.
But wait! Did that big sombitch actually drag Woods down?
Nice job, refs. Costello then hit the same big sombitch again for a two-point conversion and just like that, STAN was up 24-10. Game over.
Player of the Game
If this was for the best Aztec of the game, that would be Juwan Washington for his career-high 158 yards on 24 carries with one touchdown. Thing is, he had 114 of those yards by halftime and the Aztecs trailed 9-7. The POG was the big Spaniard from South Carolina, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who was pretty uncoverable even when he was covered.
Middle linebacker Kyahva Tezino led the Aztecs with 10 tackles, 8 solo. Parker Baldwin made some nice plays. Wide receiver Tim Wilson, Jr. made two great receptions, bouncing off defenders and RACing up 49 yards.
Best Some of Aztecs Twitter
Yep that’s a bunch of white dudes wearing shirts, no doubt about it.
On Stanford’s third drive of the game the Aztecs stoned Bryce Love for a 1-yard gain, a 3-yard loss, then stopped a different runner for a 5-yard gain to force a three-and-out. But Ronley Lakalaka said a bad word or something as he walked past a ref, so the ref gave Stanford 15 yards and a first. SDSU still forced a punt on the drive, but Lakalaka better have said something horrible about the ref’s mother because that is one hell of trash call in that situation.
Don’t sleep on Sac State, or Herm Edwards, or Danny Gonzalez. Or just sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight.
Rating Rocky Long’s likely enjoyment of the game, on a scale of subtitled French coming-of-age film to 1977 Trans Am with radar detector.
This game rated a flat keg beer in a coffee mug on the Rocky scale. Tough loss on the road against a big-time opponent. Rock saw some good things out there but is beside himself with his team’s sickening 11 penalties for 125 yards. That’s a bad pattern to carry over from last year.
Chapman was sacked five times. Some of that is Stanford just having a good defense, some of it is the line whiffing on blocks, and some of it is Chapman holding the ball and sliding around in the pocket too long. He had his typical 10 of 15 for 100-something yards and no picks, but no TDs and nothing dynamic coming from the QB.
Starting center Dominic Gudino had two false starts in a row on third down. Fred Trevillion false-started on the first offensive play of 2018, then dropped a pass that hit him in the breadbasket. Hall had two blatant hands to the face penalties in the 2nd half, maybe out of frustration.
Also the refs were garbage. No, really? The time Chapman walked himself into a sack by a defender leg-whipping him from the ground was a howler.
FS1’s team of a guy and the other guy and screamy Petros Papadokalous were OK, not great. The narrative was hugely biased toward Stanford but that’s to be expected. They missed some things, it wasn’t terrible.
What’s Next for Football Tecs
Home sweet Tombstone for the home opener next Saturday evening versus the Sacramento State Hornets. Sac isn’t even … well it is the state capital. Sac State hasn’t always been terrible but they’ve been pretty bad in recent years. This is SDSU’s paycheck game so they need to beat the Sacs like the FCS tin cans they are. And it’s SkyShow! Woooo. Come out and support your Aztecs. The game may or may not be televised, on the internet.
Herm Edwards and his new-look Sun Devils come to STADIUM in two weeks. Keep the dream alive.