The Daily Aztec

Aztecs tackle poorly, win anyway

by Ethan Bailey, Senior Staff Columnist

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It’s that time of year again, Aztecs. Our student-athletes take the field every Saturday from now until December, and the good news is they’re off to a good start.

The San Diego State football team convincingly defeated the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks 38-7 on Saturday, which is exactly what they were supposed to do.

No, they weren’t told to win the game by exactly 31 points. The Aztecs were, however, expected to beat the Lumberjacks by a decent amount—seeing as NAU is a Football Championship Subdivision program. Before getting to the details of the game, let’s break down what the difference is between FCS and Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

These two types of teams fall under different subdivisions of the NCAA. The FCS has its own set of postseason rules as does the FBS. But that isn’t what’s important here.

What is important to know is that FBS programs are considered Division-1A and FCS programs are in Division1-AA. Think of FCS as a sub-division of the NCAA.

Now that your mind is destroyed after that boring but necessary explanation, let’s get down to details.

The Aztecs’ running game looked solid throughout the contest. Sophomore running back Donnel Pumphrey seemed to pick up from where he left off last season, compiling 111 yards on 19 carries and scoring two rushing touchdowns. Junior running back Chase Price also had a nice game, showing power and speed on multiple runs. He finished with 45 rushing yards and a touchdown. The idea of having Price’s power complement Pumphrey’s shiftiness should give Aztec fans hope that the running game can be depended on this season.

Senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler had an up-and-down night, completing 18 passes for 205 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Kaehler isn’t known for outstanding arm strength but rather his good decision-making and accuracy. His interception came on a high throw while he was under pressure, and he missed open receivers on a few pass attempts. This shouldn’t be cause for concern though. Kaehler admitted after the game his performance was sub-par which means he knows what he needs to do to correct. We’ll forgive him for having some first-game jitters.

Although the scoreboard doesn’t suggest it, the Aztecs’ defense also had its ups and downs, as well. On one hand, the defense got good pressure on the NAU quarterback and held the Lumberjacks to less than 200 passing yards. Sophomore linebacker Calvin Munson had an electrifying 64-yard interception return that set up a Pumphrey touchdown run one play later.

“They got some good blocks for me and told me to get down,” Munson said. “I just really wanted to punch it in.”

No kidding. Munson was first contacted by NAU players near the 10-yard line but didn’t go down until the 2-yard line. The officials actually had to review the play to double check it wasn’t a touchdown. That kind of intensity, even against what many will call a lesser team, is exactly what the Aztecs need going forward.

The bad part of the Aztecs’ defensive performance can be summarized by none other than Head Coach Rocky Long himself.

“We tackled horribly,” Long said after the game.

Too true, Rocky. Too true.

The Lumberjacks rushed for 124 yards, many of which came after missed tackles by Aztec defenders.

But, at the end of the day, the Aztecs were victorious, which is always good no matter who you’re playing. SDSU didn’t underestimate its opponent like it did at the beginning of last season.

There’s no doubt the team has lots of work to do before it travels to face the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and Oregon State University Beavers in its next two games. But if the attitude of the team stays right, the Aztecs are talented enough to make some noise this season—especially within the Mountain West Conference.

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