Newly minted Aztecs host Ohio Bobcats in football home opener

SDSU faces a team picked to finish near the top of the Mid-American Conference to begin 2023
SDSU quarterback Jalen Mayden runs win the ball against Hawaii last season at Snapdragon Stadium.
SDSU quarterback Jalen Mayden runs win the ball against Hawaii last season at Snapdragon Stadium.
Jessica Parga

Are you ready for some football? The San Diego State Aztecs are set to kick off a new season after coming off a 7-6 campaign.

It all begins with week zero, as SDSU will face the Ohio Bobcats in the home opener at Snapdragon Stadium.

The Aztecs retained a handful of starters with veteran experience in all three phases, including senior left tackle Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson, senior defensive lineman Garrett Fountain and senior kicker Jake Browning, who was the 2022 Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year.

A stout defensive line looks to lead the charge for the Aztecs, and Fountain has embraced a leadership opportunity on the defensive side of the ball.

“I feel now it’s kind of my spot to where it’s my time to lead the defense and get the job done,” Fountain said.

Some new faces on the team include four-star junior safety JD Coffey, who transferred from the University of Texas, and two defensive linemen from junior college. Talib Salahuddin played for 2022 SoCal Champion Riverside City College and Tupu Alualu was with state playoff qualifier Mt. San Antonio College.

Brady Hoke is also entering his sixth season as the Aztecs head coach, with a record of 36-24. Hoke made a few changes to his coaching staff, including hiring former SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley as his offensive coordinator. Lindley looks to boost a passing game that was ranked near the bottom of the pack in all of college football last season.

After starting multiple quarterbacks last year, the Aztecs enter this year with a clear-cut number one. Senior Jalen Mayden, who switched from safety midway through the campaign last season, is the starter.

The coaching staff saw an improvement in the passing game toward the end of last season with Mayden under center. Mayden led the team in passing yards despite starting in eight games at quarterback.

The Aztecs had a few notable departures in the offseason. Running back and return man Jordan Byrd entered the NFL Draft, and standout senior in safety Patrick McMorris transferred to the University of California. Wide receivers Jesse Matthews and Tyrell Shavers — who were the top two in reception yards last season — graduated.

Hoke expressed excitement for his former players at a press conference before the start of fall camp.

“We mentioned the 26 guys on NFL teams,” Hoke said. “We’re really proud of that as a program because it tells you that guys are being developed.”

Ohio is led by quarterback Kurtis Rourke, a graduate student who won Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year last season, and redshirt sophomore running back Sieh Bangura, who won MAC Freshman of the Year.

Ohio’s defense stars a pair of linebackers, which includes graduate students Keye Thompson and Bryce Houston, who finished last season with over 75 tackles and five quarterback hurries each.

The Bobcats finished 10-4 last year, highlighted by an appearance in the MAC Championship Game, where they fell short to Toledo. The Bobcats earned a trip to the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl, where they notched a 30-27 OT victory over Mountain West Conference representative Wyoming.

Kickoff for the Aztecs home opener is at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26 at Snapdragon Stadium.

About the Contributor
Mac Pham
Mac Pham, Staff Writer
Mac Pham is a Journalism major and a senior transfer student from Palomar Community College. He joined the Daily Aztec in 2023. Writing stories, story telling, reading and talking to people is something he enjoys doing, so he figured why not talk sports with that. His favorite aspect of sports writing is being an analyst and breaking down the details of a football or a basketball game. In his spare time, Mac is an avid swimmer and likes to play basketball. He hopes to be a sports writer whose calling card is writing articles filled with sports analysis. Mac is bilingual in Vietnamese.