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.
I tell people that I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is technically true but not the whole truth. If I was being completely honest I would say I grew up in Silicon Valley. I’m generally not completely honest, lest people get the wrong idea about me.
My hometown of Santa Clara is not gorgeous San Francisco or dynamic Oakland or even pretty livable Albany or San Rafael. It’s basically one big empty commercial office park parking lot next to a Coco’s next to a Jamba Juice next to about 2,000 consecutive blocks of garage-front postwar houses ranging in color from off yellow to off tan, each listed at $1.25 million in a buyer’s market.
Another personal fact I tend to keep on the DL: The very first collegiate sporting event I ever attended was a Stanford Cardinal football game. This one to be exact.
I think most of us expected a win in Tempe. Our paradigm in this new golden age of San Diego State football, with seven straight bowl appearances and back-to-back conference titles in the trophy case, is that we view a road game against Arizona State as a Should Win. Even though SDSU had:
Never beaten the Sun Devils in 11 games dating back to 1934, and
Had lost 28 straight road games against Pac opponents.
We’ll come back to that road futility streak. Most importantly, let’s talk about Rashaad Penny.
“A game we needed desperately.” – Steve Fisher in postgame radio interview.
San Diego State men’s basketball is a marquee program that missed the NCAA tournament last season. Bad losses to Arkansas-Little Rock, Grand Canyon and the windblown debacle at Petco put early black marks on that team’s résumé. They won the Mountain West regular season title but lost to Fresno in the conference tournament final. The NCAA selection committee, in their infinite wisdom, decided the MWC was a one-bid conference and SDSU was relegated to the NIT.
Beating Cal at the new NBA arena in downtown Sacramento was an important step in avoiding such a fate this season. Writers back East won’t have waited up for a game that tipped after 8 p.m. Pacific, but they’ll see the 77-65 scoreline over a decent Pac-12 team. For those of us who did watch it, in their first run at full strength, these Aztecs look pretty dang good.
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.