San Diego State’s 23-17 loss to a very good Utah State team on Saturday sure as hell wasn’t ideal. I DID NOT GLEAN A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF ENJOYMENT FROM IT, TRUTH BE TOLD. But the game did clarify a few things about where our beloved squad stands and what the season looks like moving forward.
Due to extremely unfortunate employment-related circumstances, I was not at the Rose Bowl to witness the San Diego State football Aztecs’ historic first win over UCLA. Nor was I even able to watch the game, despite the vast reach of the mighty Pac-12 Networks. Therefore, ergo, I only caught updates of the proceedings via the interwebs and radio play-by-play.
As the game progressed in the 2nd half, Uncle Teddy, in his usual….distinctive manner, effusively complained that the Aztecs continually and predictably ran the ball on first down.
But did they really? Is Coach Horton’s spread offense still Ground Jeff? To drill into this crucial issue, I did what any extremely healthy-minded person would do: Collate all the Aztecs’ first-down play calls.
Our beloved San Diego State football Aztecs had been living something of a charmed existence during their 6-game winning streak, may it rest in peace. Well, except for the injuries to key starters, but you know what I mean. Along the way, they won games thanks to a targeting foul they committed, a long-ass John Baron field goal, a mad Ryan Agnew scramble after a lightning delay and yet another long-ass Baron field goal.
After doing just enough to win and not a thing more for nearly two months straight, the Aztecs just felt due to cock one up.
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.
San Diego State will always be a smashmouth, run-first team under Rocky Long and offensive coordinator Jeff Horton, and that’s great. In an age where pass-happy spread offenses and four-hour games are the rule, SDSU’s pro-style, ball control attack makes defenses adjust to an unfamiliar style and typically endure a thoroughly unpleasant 60 minutes. Against inferior competition, the Aztecs tend to grind opponents down to demoralized powder by the second half.
Yet I think Saturday might have exposed the limits of stubborn, tough guy football.