A little after noon Pacific time, I was in a pretty dark place. Well, I was at work, so that goes without saying. But more so than usual even!
In my head, I was already crafting a depressing game recap about how the Aztecs were on the verge of being cast into the sea at the Maui Invitational. How the hunt for a quality nonconference win was looking grim. How one day after getting their doors blown off by No. 1 Duke, the Aztecs responded by getting their doors blown off by a team that was very decidedly not Duke.
Don’t get me wrong, Xavier is a solid Big East foe, but when you’re getting run by 19 in the first half against the Musketeers, many people would consider that time to panic.
Instead, Jalen McDaniels decided it was time to grab himself some plate lunch and fuckin’ eat.
McDaniels scored a career-high 26 points as the Aztecs roared to within three at halftime and then dominated the game’s final 15 minutes for a 79-74 win — a thrilling national TV showcase for both an NBA prospect and a team looking to build an at-large resume.
What a comeback for San Diego State. Jalen McDaniels carries the Aztecs to a come from behind win over Xavier in Maui. Musketeers are now 2-3 overall.
It’s getting to the point where we need to remind ourselves not to become numb to this.
Less than two years ago, in the wake of the Aztecs’ 2016 Mountain West Conference Championship Game victory, I spent a week leading up to the bowl game running a silly bracket-style tournament of the best wins of the Rocky Long era (hooray, content!). Have a look at the eight games I chose. The winner of the tournament as selected by you, the fans, was — I shit you not — a regular season win over Nevada.
In the 22 months since, we’ve been thoroughly spoiled with the following:
A bowl victory over Group of Five darling Houston in which D.J. Pumphrey broke the NCAA rushing record.
A win on the road at Arizona State in Rashaad Penny’s national coming out party.
The Stanford blackout.
ANOTHER win over the Sun Devils, who were ranked this time.
When I think back on the biggest victories I’ve witnessed as a San Diego State football fan, a particular memory comes to mind for each. I’ll never forget the euphoric mass of humanity on the field at STADIUM last September following the Stanford upset. Nor will I forget the realization dawning on me, after that clutch Adam Muema first down run in 2012, that the Aztecs had actually just beaten Boise State on The Blue.
When I think of tonight’s 28-21 win over No. 23 Arizona State — a game that probably ranks just a bit behind those two in the pantheon of Rocky Long-era wins — the lasting memory will be me nearly barfing six slices of Woodstock’s pizza onto some poor souls in Plaza Level below.
I’m not out of the woods yet in that regard, either, so apologies if I end up losing my dinner in this post. That game was … something.
It had been about 15 minutes since the final gun, since the jubilant mass of students and young(ish) alumni awkwardly hopped the railings from Plaza into the Field Level seats to execute the first STADIUM football field storming since … ever? Maybe ever. Who knows.
A few thousand of us were still milling about in a state of euphoria as an unfamiliar disembodied voice came on the PA and told us, in the most sterile and diplomatic way possible, to get the fuck out. The powers that be expedited this order by herding us through the tunnel in the east end zone.
As we trudged up the crumbling concrete ramp, under hundreds of shoes and work boots dangling from a wire above (who knew?) a student let out his pent-up exuberance with a guttural roar. The hundreds herded into the tunnel immediately took the hint and turned the cramped rat hole into a cacophony of sound.
It was spontaneous. It was beautiful. It was like nothing I had ever seen at a San Diego State football game. I’m willing to bet we’ll never see anything quite like it again.
San Diego State’s footballing win in the Mountain West Conference championship game Saturday marked the 53rd victory in Rocky Long’s six years as head coach of the Aztecs.
Was it his best one yet?
Since we are a society that obsessed with ranking/arguing about anything and everything (and since we are a dumb blog grasping for ideas on a bye week before a bowl game) I decided to put together an Elite 8 tournament of best wins of the Rocky Long era.