San Diego State football entered 2018 on the heels of one of the best stretches in program history, ripping off 32 wins in three seasons. The 2018 season just ended with probably the lowest ebb of the Rocky Long era — a rain-soaked 27-0 loss to Ohio University in the Frisco Bowl in which the suspension-depleted Aztecs didn’t look particularly interested to be there.
What: Postseason football game Who: San Diego State Aztecs vs. Ohio Bobcats When: 5:00 p.m. Wednesday Where: Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas TV: ESPN Line: Ohio -2.5
The Stakes Pride and self-respect. Making their ninth straight bowl appearance, the Aztecs need a win to avoid ending the season on a four-game losing streak. And in a late surprise, SDSU will have to overcome the suspension of three players — including starters Noble Hall and Daishawn Dixon — sent home by Rocky Long two days before the game.
The Frisco Bowl is the former Miami Beach Bowl, which was played at Marlins Park from 2014 to 2016. Frisco is a half-hour drive north of Dallas.
Before being announced as SDSU’s bowl opponent, I was only vaguely aware of Ohio University’s existence. Founded in 1804 and the oldest university in the state, Ohio U. is situated on a sprawling 1,800-acre campus in the little college town of Athens. It sounds kind of idyllic to be quite honest. The school’s student population is 60 percent women, a demographic anomaly future college applicants may wish to consider.
Ohio started playing football in 1894. Pretty legit considering the game has only existed (as 25-on-25 murderball) since 1869. The football Bobcats have competed in Division I since 1962.
Maybe there was nothing of real consequence on the line Saturday night as the Aztecs played out the string against Hawai’i. We walked into the Tombstone with some concern that a seven-win SDSU team in the improved Mountain West could get left without a bowl bid. That’s possible, though consensus seems to be that the only bowl-eligible team in Southern California will merit a forgettable postseason invite.
But in a larger sense, the 31-30 overtime loss felt like the night our legends and myths dissipated into mist before our eyes.
With 10:07 remaining in the fourth quarter, New Mexico threw a touchdown to go up 23-14 on San Diego State and I reached for my laptop to write this here recap, which at the time was an obituary for a once-promising season.
Despite getting back their stud running back and the winningest QB in program history, the Aztecs’ offense couldn’t stay on the field and the defense could only hold for so long. SDSU was going to lose in Albuquerque to a definitely crappy Lobos team and be effectively eliminated for the Mountain West title race. The season was dead.
Rocky Long is many things to many people. Defensive mastermind. GTO-driving internet meme. Patron Saint of Ocean Beach philosophers. He is not, it turns out, a licensed medical doctor.
Long sounded reassuringly calm about star running back Juwan Washington’s injury after Saturday night’s win over Eastern Michigan, saying he didn’t think it was too serious despite the fact that Washington spent the second half with his arm in a sling. Last night, we learned that calming prognosis was overly optimistic.
In their third stress-inducing home victory in three weeks, the San Diego State football Aztecs came from behind to beat Eastern Michigan 23-20 in overtime. The EMU Eagles do not identify as emus, but much like the freakishly tall flightless bird, proved stubborn and hard to knock over nonetheless.
Despite running their record to 13-0-1 against the Mid-American Conference, it turns out the Aztecs don’t really want that MACtion.
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.