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Aztecs set the tone for the season with dominant opening game victory

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Aztecs set the tone for the season with dominant opening game victory

Sophomore tight end Kahale Warring blocks a UC Davis player during SDSU's 38-17 win.

Sophomore tight end Kahale Warring blocks a UC Davis player during SDSU's 38-17 win.

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Sophomore tight end Kahale Warring blocks a UC Davis player during SDSU's 38-17 win.

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Sophomore tight end Kahale Warring blocks a UC Davis player during SDSU's 38-17 win.

by Kyle Saunders, Staff Columnist

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In near triple-digit heat, the San Diego State football team crushed visiting UC Davis on Saturday by a score of 38-17 victory. In the four quarters played at San Diego Stadium, the Aztecs stuck to their roots and continued their run heavy offense and short, safe passing.

This is exactly the kind of game that Aztec fans and players alike were hoping for, after all the talk of roster questions and how the team would fare this season without Donnel Pumphrey. Senior running back Rashaad Penny answered that question with an exclamation point against the Aggies, posting 197 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a dominating performance that confirmed his impact on this young squad.

Sophomore running back Juwan Washington, who is now the backup running back, showed that he and Penny are more than capable of continuing Rocky’s two-back offense, Washington posting 66 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Head coach Rocky Long said said he was especially excited about the showing of his offensive line, featuring four new starters.

I was happy for the offensive line. We know those two guys can run with the ball. But they don’t get to run with the ball unless the big boys upfront do a pretty good job and I thought the offensive line got better as the game went along.” 

Saturday night was also the debut of Long’s new and improved passing game, consisting of one 6-foot-4 and one 6-foot-5 receiver in the starting line up. It is true that redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman aired the ball out significantly more than we saw last season, but we didn’t get to see the long ball throws to redshirt freshman receivers Tim Wilson Jr. and Isiah Macklin that some anticipated.

Chapman finished the night 16 for 21 with 220 yards and two touchdowns, which will go down as a victory in most books, however tonight would’ve been an excellent opportunity to test his young receivers against a sub-par Aggie secondary.

Both receivers, especially Macklin, are the centerpiece of a rebirth of SDSU’s passing offense, yet failed to record a touchdown or even a reception until garbage time. Coach Long was quick to say after the game that it’s not their goal to turn into a pass-oriented, shotgun-style offense.

We’re not a drop back team, we’re not a shotgun team, so-to-speak. We’re not a three-to-four wide receiver team, so-to-speak,” Long said. “But as long as we can efficiently run the ball, we’re going to have some receivers that are open and I thought that Chapman did a nice job throwing the ball to them. They made a couple of really nice catches, and then they can do something with it after they catch it, too. But our passing game is still going to depend on us being able to run the football.

On the other side of the ball, the defense was lights out for the first three quarters of the game, allowing only 165 yards and one field goal. The Aggies managed to close the gap against SDSU’s back up defense, outscoring the home team 14-0 to make it a 38-17 game but with only six minutes remaining on the clock it was more of a moral victory than anything. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Ron Smith, along with five other Aztec defenders, tallied four tackles on the night, which is reassuring for fans that the dominance from the Scarlet and Black has not disappeared. Smith also intercepted a pass on the night, and was not shy of asserting his dominance on the field and stepping up as one of the leaders.

“(I’m) happy that we got the win tonight. I’m happy to see all of our young guys getting a chance to step on the field and make the plays necessary for us to get that win,” Smith said. “So being the young guy last year and still being the young guy really, I know the pressure that is really on you, to make plays and make sure the team isn’t going in a negative direction. We still have a long way to go, but everyone’s really hyped up about it and ready to get better so we have a big task ahead of us.” 

UC Davis knew that coming into San Diego this weekend would be a big challenge. Regardless of the score, Head Coach Dan Hawkins and his team left it all on the field. He took risks throughout the game to try and get his guys on the board, one of those decisions was a head scratching choice to go for it on 4th and 13 which resulted in a turnover on downs. Hawkins put the game in perspective for his team postgame.

When you play a team like this, your margin of error is very small. I was really proud of our guys’ effort. I thought they battled and never quit. That was redeemable. We knew they were a good running team. I don’t think we were able to tip the scales enough to kind of get them out of there. They just pounded us. We did a great job and stayed very patient until they wore us down.

Overall, the Aztecs showed that their two running back offense is alive and well, the first string defense is as dominant as ever, both of which should help make for an exciting season.

Penny was named MW Player of the Week for his monster performance, an honor he should attain regularly this season if he can keep posting 150+ yard games with multiple TD’s.

The Aztecs pick up action next Sat., Sept. 9 in Arizona for their first real test of the year against the Arizona State Sun Devils.

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