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Monday Morning Quarterback: Chapman gives SDSU bright hope for future

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Redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Chapman had a career night in the 31-0 opening game victory.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Chapman had a career night in the 31-0 opening game victory.

File Photo

File Photo

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Chapman had a career night in the 31-0 opening game victory.

by Zach Engberg, Staff Coulmnist

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Win 20.

This has been the motto from the start of the season for San Diego State football.

But after the loss of graduate-transfer quarterback Maxwell Smith in last week’s victory over the University of Nevada, even with a perfect Mountain West record and home field in the championship game, the Aztecs’ future did not look bright.

But their hopes were resurrected by redshirt-freshman quarterback Christian Chapman, who produced a somewhat revelatory performance in his first career start to lead SDSU to a 27-24 win against Air Force Academy in its first MW championship game appearance, when his team needed it most.

Change that to “Won 20.”  

“We thought he would play well,” head coach Rocky long said of his young starting quarterback. “But we had no idea he would play as well as he did. Thank goodness he did, because we needed him to play that well for us to win.”

He certainly earned his Offensive Player of the Game accolade.

Chapman was considered for the starting position during the offseason, but lost out to Smith, mostly because of Smith’s experience playing at the University of Kentucky, which plays in the vaunted Southeastern Conference. 

While Smith led the Aztecs to the brink, Chapman is going to take the team to the next level and in the process is providing hope for the future of the SDSU football program behind a budding star quarterback.

Chapman showed surprising confidence in his first career start, completing nine of his 14 pass attempts for 201 yards, the most by an Aztec quarterback all year.

What was particularly surprising was the loose leash offensive coordinator Jeff Horton held on Chapman, giving him many opportunities to fling the ball deep, leading to three completions of 40 or more yards, two of which came in the fourth quarter.

The most notable of these was a 48-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Mikah Holder to the Air Force 25 yard-line, which was key in setting up the game-winning 46-yard field goal off the leg of senior kicker Donny Hageman.

Smith, a serviceable quarterback in his own right, has shown little ability to throw downfield this year.

Much like many other quarterbacks of his surname — think Kansas City Chiefs’ starting quarterback Alex Smith — Smith has been a game manager.

It is a vocation he filled glowingly, having gone 164 consecutive passes without an interception dating all the way back to the Aztecs’ loss on the road to Penn State, coincidentally the last loss these Aztecs experienced.

But the passing offense was limited to almost exclusively play-action passes to Holder and dump-downs to running backs. 

With Chapman at the helm, fans were awarded the chance to see a glimpse into the near, and potentially long-standing, future.

One where SDSU’s offense takes chances and threatens defenses with more than just the legs of the MW Offensive Player of Year in junior running back Donnel Pumphrey and his running mates. 

It’s not just that Chapman has the tools to make those throws, but that he uses them with such bravado.

A conference championship game, even the MW conference championship, is a big stage to be making a first career start.

But Chapman never wavered.

He never seemed fazed by the big moment.

And if SDSU can keep the momentum from this season going, there will be countless big moments for Chapman in the coming seasons.

Even in the precious moments of celebration after the Aztecs’ victory on Saturday night, Chapman was already staking his mission for 2016.

“Our motto is ‘Win 20,’” he said. “We won 20, now it’s time to win 21.”

Smith got SDSU farther than ever this season with 10 wins, a MW conference championship game berth and an impressive nine-game win streak.

But Chapman is ready to take his Aztecs into the stratosphere.

Before then, though, at least SDSU will get the chance to go to the Hawaii Bowl.

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