Generally, watching your team face a Football Championship Subdivision squad offers only two possible outcomes: A meaningless, emotionless win or a humiliating loss that is a harbinger of pestilence, sadness and doom.
What went down on Saturday night felt like splitting the difference between the two.
Yes, the Aztecs notched their first win of the season, gutting out a 28-14 victory over solid FCS opponent Sacramento State. But the Aztecs needed a late rally to avoid the embarrassing upset. Even worse, they almost certainly have lost QB Christian Chapman for an extended period of time. The senior injured his knee while being hit low during the second quarter and did not return. An MRI is scheduled for Sunday.
How big a blow you think this is to the season probably depends on what side you fight for in the Chapman Wars.
If you consider him an overrated game manager, you probably think SDSU should not skip a beat under backup Ryan Agnew and the Aztecs should still be in the hunt for a conference title.
If you consider Chapman a driving force behind 24 SDSU wins and two conference titles, your expectations might have just narrowed from the New Year’s 6 to hopefully six more wins and the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
This certainly could have been worse. Fortunately, a total Eastern Illinois-style disaster was averted thanks to Juwan Washington, who rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the final five minutes to turn a 14-13 Sac State fourth-quarter lead into an almost respectable-looking victory, if you’re only judging by the ESPN Bottom Line crawl.
This is usually where I would embed a Tweet with video of Washington’s big runs, but unfortunately no video exists as this game was played in 1966 and thus was not televised. It’s all good though. I hear we’re making progress in Vietnam.
Agnew, for his part, was mostly OK in relief of Chapman, completing 11-of-17 passes for 159 yards. While he had two picks — one a near-killer with the Aztecs driving early in the 4th quarter — he showed the ability to evade the rush and make big throws with the game on the line. Agnew converted 3rd down and 4th down passes on SDSU’s go-ahead TD drive, as well as a crucial 2-point conversion toss to Parker Houston.
Credit SDSU’s defense for keeping the Aztecs in striking distance while the offense sputtered. Sac State’s up-tempo spread, which racked up 55 points last week against some random FCS traffic cones, was held to 234 total yards, 10 first downs and exactly one very big pass play. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino contributed a 4th-down sack of Thompson to set up the Washington TD that put the game on ice.
Look, there’s no shame in a win of any kind. Even Florida State needed to rally in the final five minutes Saturday to escape against Samford. Still, tonight, it’s hard not to to feel a little existential dread mixed in with the relief.
Down 14-13 with 5:59 left and facing a 4th and 9 the Hornets’ 38, Rocky Long had a couple of choices. He could have trotted out John Baron II to try a career-long field goal. Or he could have tried to pin Sac State deep with a punt and lean on his defense for one more stop.
He did neither. Instead, he took a drip into his Fuck It Bucket and went for it with his backup QB.
Agnew converted, connecting with a diving Ethan Dedeaux for a huge 15-yard reception. Dedeaux, who hauled in 6 catches for 90 yards, appears to officially be the Mikah Holder replacement as the sure-handed security blanket.
Four Washington runs later, the Aztecs had the lead. Without that play, it’s safe to say SDSU probably loses. And this game recap would be even darker than it is right now.
Can you imagine?
Best Some of Aztecs Twitter
Emotions were running high tonight. I’m not blaming anyone for anything that was said. There were no bad takes.
OK, maybe one bad take.
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 Cup of Del Taco Fries on the Rocky scale. While he’s surely troubled by the loss of his QB, I have a hunch Long sorta relishes games like this. He watched his team GRIND IT OUT when facing adversity and come up big in NUT-CUTTING TIME. He also got to roll the dice and make a ballsy call. Long might not have liked this game, but he sure didn’t hate it.
The announced crowd was 45,755, which might have been a bit generous, but whatever. It looked like a typical late-arriving SkyShow crowd, split pretty evenly between hardcore SDSU fans and the gunpowder-curious.
What’s Next for Football Tecs
It’s now time of the Power 5 game we had all penciled in as a “W” before the season started as the Aztecs host Arizona State next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Sun Devils were the joke of the offseason after hiring noted aging Barry Herm Edwards and they’ve continued their bumbling ways by …
(glances at college football scoreboard)
beating No. 15 Michigan State to begin the season 2-0. ASU might be ranked this week.
Oh, cool. That should be fun.