The Daily Aztec

Aztecs fail to handle Stanford air attack in 31-10 road loss

SDSU+senior+defensive+lineman+Chibu+Onyeukwu+battles+Stanford+offensive+lineman+A.T.+Hall+during+SDSU%27s+31-10+road+loss+against+Stanford+on+Aug.+31.
SDSU senior defensive lineman Chibu Onyeukwu battles Stanford offensive lineman A.T. Hall during SDSU's 31-10 road loss against Stanford on Aug. 31.

SDSU senior defensive lineman Chibu Onyeukwu battles Stanford offensive lineman A.T. Hall during SDSU's 31-10 road loss against Stanford on Aug. 31.

Aaron Tolentino

Aaron Tolentino

SDSU senior defensive lineman Chibu Onyeukwu battles Stanford offensive lineman A.T. Hall during SDSU's 31-10 road loss against Stanford on Aug. 31.

by Aaron Tolentino, Assistant Sports Editor

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San Diego State football slowed down Stanford University senior running back Bryce Love, but the Aztec defense got torched in a 31-10 defeat in the season opener Friday night at Stanford Stadium.

Much of the talk coming into the season was on stopping Love, a potential Heisman candidate who finished last year second in the FBS in rushing with 2,118 yards.

The Aztecs successfully stifled Love, holding him to 29 yards on 18 attempts, but left opportunities for the Cardinal passing game.

Stanford junior quarterback K.J. Costello picked apart the SDSU defense with a career-high 332 yards passing and four touchdowns, completing 21 of 31 attempts.

SDSU junior linebacker Kyavah Tezino said while Love was the focus on defense coming in, he was aware of the threat Costello presents throwing the ball.

“I’m from LA and he’s a local guy from California so I already knew he could pass,” Tezino said. “I knew he was highly recruited coming out of high school, so I knew about him. I told the whole team about him. We all knew, but that’s not what we expected him to come in and do. We expected them to feed Bryce Love.”

Head coach Rocky Long said the Aztecs made Stanford beat them through the air.

“I think we made them throw it, whether they wanted to or not,” Long said. “We made them throw it.”

The Aztecs, on the other hand, could not get their passing game going.

Senior quarterback Christian Chapman struggled to move the ball down the field, completing 10 of 15 attempts for 115 yards, an average of 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Cardinal put pressure on Chapman all night, sacking him five times, including once in the end zone for a safety.

The safety came with 7:35 left in the second quarter when senior linebacker Bobby Okereke chased Chapman toward the edge of the Aztecs’ own goal line.

Chapman was forced by Okereke to intentionally fumble the ball out of the end zone, in an attempt to avoid the safety. However, the officials ruled the play a safety, which gave the Cardinal their first points of the evening and made the score 7-2.

Another area of concern for SDSU was the penalty discrepancy, with the Aztecs committing 11 penalties for 125 yards, while Stanford committed only three penalties for 20 yards.

“We kind of beat ourselves at times, we had a lot of penalties, mistakes,” Chapman said.

A bright spot on offense for SDSU was junior running back Juwan Washington, who finished with a career-high 158 yards on the ground.

Washington started off slow, but big runs of 22 and 40 yards in the Aztecs’ second drive of the game got him going for the rest of the night.

“It started off slow a little bit,” Washington said. “I was trying to get a rhythm and a feel for the game at full speed, just trust my vision and holes and follow behind my o-line. Once I start doing that, it picked up a little bit.”

Despite the loss, Long said the team has potential and showed positive signs by running the ball and defending the run.

“We got some potential,” Long said. “Obviously, our secondary’s got to get better, but we ran the ball pretty well on a very good defensive team. I thought they struggled to run the ball against us. Those are all positive signs.”

Long said it “was pretty equal at the end of half.”

The Aztecs committed a big miscue with 1:43 left in the second quarter, when senior defensive end Noble Hall intercepted a Costello pass on third-and-5 but fumbled the ball on the subsequent return.

Stanford got a fresh set of downs and capitalized with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Costello to Stanford senior receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, giving the Cardinal a 9-7 lead going into halftime.

Long said Hall’s fumble on the interception was the biggest momentum shift of the game, and took away any momentum the Aztecs had headed into the locker room.

“That was the biggest momentum shift in the game,” Long said. “We stop them and intercept a pass and fumble right back to them and they throw it over one of our cornerbacks for a touchdown when we should be running the clock out. All of a sudden they score and I think that completely eliminated any momentum we had.”

The touchdown was also the beginning of a big night for Arcega-Whiteside, who went on to finish with six catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns.

Long said Arcega-Whiteside presented a mismatch for his defensive backs, and pinpointed it as the main reason for the loss.

“They had a receiver we couldn’t cover,” Long said. “Otherwise, we played just as good as they did.”

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