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Kaehler shines at annual fan fest

Young fan high-fives senior defensive lineman Sam Meredith

Jenna Mackey, Photo Editor

Young fan high-fives senior defensive lineman Sam Meredith

by Ryan Posner, Staff Writer

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The San Diego State football team held its 2014 Fan Fest Scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 16, at Qualcomm Stadium.

Fans could lined up hours before gates opened to catch a glimpse of their Aztec warriors playing for the first time in 2014, in what was a scorching day at the “Q.”

The fan fest means a lot to players like fifth-year senior cornerback J.J. Whittaker.

“I got to see a lot of friends in the stands today, it was nice having them here,” said Whittaker, who graduated from Oceanside High School in San Diego. “After fan fest you know the first game is right around the corner, it’s one of those things that really pumps you up.”

At this point last year, SDSU confidently had then-junior quarterback Adam Dingwell slotted as the starter, while Quinn Kaehler was locked in as the backup. Fast forward to this year, and the senior transfer product, Kaehler, holds the keys to the starting job, and Dingwell is no longer on the team.

“It’s kind of a different situation, but it’s good, and the team is putting in the right work, and we’re really excited,” Kaehler said.

In his first fan fest scrimmage as the starting quarterback, Kaehler did not disappoint, throwing for 159 yards and two touchdowns while completing more than 50 percent of his passes.

Head coach Rocky Long was happy to see his quarterback looking sharp, but pointed to a couple of defensive miscues that have been a common theme for the defense. These opened the door for one of Kaehler’s touchdowns.

“We’ve been giving up three or four long touchdowns passes in practice every day,” Long said. “I’ve seen that every day in practice out of our safeties, that’s probably the biggest concern we’ve got.”

Finding a reliable place kicker was arguably the biggest area needed to be addressed during the offseason for the Aztecs. Junior transfer Donald Hageman caught the attention of fans and coaches when he drilled a 51-yard field goal in Saturday’s scrimmage. Long would not declare that Hageman would start to begin the season, but did note that he helped his chances by hitting that long field goal.

Another positive that came from the scrimmage was the play of freshman backup quarterback Nick Bawden. Bawden earned the backup role earlier in the week, and showed why he earned that role on Saturday, throwing for 155 yards and a touchdown.

“Bawden as a true freshman did a really nice job,” said offensive coordinator Bob Toledo. “Having him come for spring practice really helped him.”

Overall, it’s tough to take a lot away from the inter-squad scrimmage, especially when standouts such as sophomore running back Donnel Pumphrey, senior wide receiver Ezell Ruffin and junior linebacker Jake Fely were barely seen on the field. However SDSU’s key returning offensive players, along with possibly finding a solution to their kicking game in Hageman, should have fans excited.

Yet the loss of safety Nat Berhe, who is now with the New York Giants, has clearly hurt this secondary–and they won’t have a lot of time to figure it out. The Aztecs play their two hardest non-conference games against University of North Carolina and Oregon State University in weeks two and three.

The Aztecs kick of their season at 4:00 p.m. on Aug. 30 against Northern Arizona University at Qualcomm Stadium.

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