The Daily Aztec

Loss shouldn’t dampen dream SDSU season

Senior+fullback+Nick+Bawden+runs+with+the+ball+during+the+Aztecs+31-14+loss+to+Boise+State+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+14%2C+at+SDCCU+Stadium.+
Senior fullback Nick Bawden runs with the ball during the Aztecs 31-14 loss to Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 14, at SDCCU Stadium.

Senior fullback Nick Bawden runs with the ball during the Aztecs 31-14 loss to Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 14, at SDCCU Stadium.

Kelly Smiley

Kelly Smiley

Senior fullback Nick Bawden runs with the ball during the Aztecs 31-14 loss to Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 14, at SDCCU Stadium.

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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San Diego State football head coach Rocky Long recites the same adage every year after the Aztecs lose their first game: going undefeated in college football is hard.

“There wasn’t one team in Division I football that went undefeated last year, not one,” Long said. “You realize along the way there is a chance you’re going to stumble and have a bad night and lose the game. Even though you don’t want to, and you prepare and try really hard not to.”

Long is not wrong: only 15 teams have gone undefeated since the turn of the century, and none since Florida State University in 2013.

130 FBS teams started the 2017 season hoping to go undefeated. 

There are now only eight undefeated teams left in the FBS after five, including San Diego State, lost their first game this past weekend.

“Obviously we’re disappointed we lost,” Long said. “Every team  in America goes into their schedule hoping to win every game.” 

The Aztecs were bullied at home by a more aggressive Boise State team, falling by a score of 31-14 in front of a home crowd that quickly went from raucous to deflated.

The Aztecs had everything going for them heading into their matchup with Boise: An undefeated 6-0 record – the team’s best start since 1975 – big victories over Pac-12 Conference schools Arizona State and Stanford University, a No. 19 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll and a Heisman Trophy contender in senior running back Rashaad Penny.

None of that mattered against Boise.

Mistakes doomed the Aztecs.

A first quarter punt return touchdown and a costly fumble by redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman, which freshman linebacker Kekaula Kaniho ran back for a touchdown, put them in an early hole they could not dig out of.

For Chapman, this one hurt.

“I hate losing more than I like winning,” Chapman said. “This was a big loss. We had a goal. We were trying to go undefeated. That’s out the window now.”

Up to this point, SDSU was in the midst of a dream season.

A season-high 49,053 fans showed up against Boise, the highest attendance total since the Aztecs topped 50,000 in a 2012 game against the University of Hawaii, and the team was the talk of local fans and pundits alike.

This was the year the Aztecs were going to make it into a New Year’s Six bowl.

They would break through the elusive barrier that confounds every school in a Group of Five conference.

The slipper certainly fit, but with the loss has the clock struck midnight?

Not yet.

“The worst thing you can do is disintegrate,” SDSU offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said. “It’s not like we’re sitting here 1-6, we’re sitting here 6-1. We just got to get back to being who we are.”

What the Aztecs are is resilient.

The Aztecs have put together come-from-behind fourth quarter victories over both Stanford and Air Force to prove it.

That resiliency will be put to the test this weekend against rival Fresno State.

The Bulldogs are a much improved 4-2 team who sits in first place in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference, just ahead of the Aztecs.

Fresno’s only two losses this season came on the road against No. 12 University of Washington and No. 1 University of Alabama.

It’s going to be another tough game.

But a win would put SDSU back in the driver’s seat towards a third consecutive date in the MW championship game.

A win would also likely lift the Aztecs back into the AP Top 25 poll, and right back into the national spotlight.

And that loss?

They will learn from it.

“You know sometimes you hope that’s a big wake-up call for all of us. That each and every week you’ve gotta be ready to go,” Horton said. “It’s hard to win, you know you can’t ever take that for granted, even though we’ve won a lot here.”

So, you know what? This team is going to be fine.

This season? It’s going to be fine too.

Going undefeated is hard, and losing is no fun, but it was a hell of a ride.

And it’s not over yet.

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