Aztecs survive scare and beat Army 23-20

by Antonio Morales

Rocky Long won his first road game as head coach on Saturday against Army. / | antonio zaragoza, photo editor
Rocky Long won his first road game as head coach on Saturday against Army. / | antonio zaragoza, photo editor

In what was guaranteed to be an emotional game because of the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, the San Diego State football team took on every shot Army had and defeated the Black Knights in a thriller 23-20. With the win, SDSU improved to 2-0 for the second straight year and won its first game in the Eastern time zone since 1972. The Aztecs were outgained by Army, who had 446 yards to SDSU’s 292. It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but a win is a win and the Aztecs will take them any way they can get them.

Triple-option troubles

Coming into the game head coach Rocky Long gave high praise to the triple-option, an offense SDSU would be playing against for the third game in a row. Long was explaining how he hates coaching against the triple-option and even went as far to say that it was the best offense ever designed. After watching this game it’s not hard to see why he doesn’t like it. Army rolled up 423 yards rushing and controlled the ball for more than 42 minutes of game time.

After the game, Long said the Black Knights played well. “I thought Army played as good as I’ve ever seen them play,” Long said. “I thought they played tough football, I thought they ran a couple plays we hadn’t practiced against and no matter how much we adjusted to those plays, as soon as we adjusted some other play hurt us.”

Junior linebacker Rob Andrews explained how difficult it was to play against the Army offense. “It’s a straight triple-option team,” Andrews said. “They do so many smoke-and-mirrors that it’s hard to play defense and to stop it because they do one thing too many times then you overcompensate.”

Offensive inconsistency

After storming out to a 14-0 lead, it looked as if the Aztec offense was going to roll to another big outing. But after the first quarter the offense began to sputter until the end of the third quarter when it started to put some drives together again. The offense went through the motions for most of the game, as receivers were dropping passes and the Army defense was putting constant pressure on senior quarterback Ryan Lindley.

Another factor might be that the offense was never on the field; SDSU had the ball for a little less than 18 minutes. Lindley gave Army recognition for coming prepared to play.

“You have to give them all the credit in the world,” Lindley said. “They came out ready to fight and we expected that. We just needed to come out with a little more intensity.” Despite the sluggish play, Ronnie Hillman managed to keep up his solid play with another 100-yard rushing performance. Hillman ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns, his fourth straight 100-yard game.

Forcing the issue

Those who watched the game must have seen the inordinate amount of fumbles by the Army offense. The Aztecs forced eight fumbles in the contest, recovering three while the Black Knights managed to pounce five of them. It was apparent early on the SDSU defense was focused on taking the ball away from Army. Black Knight junior quarterback Trent Steelman told the media after the game that the defense’s speed played a part in the ball being put on the turf.

“They (SDSU) were resilient when it comes to ball security and getting that ball out,” Steelman said. “They are one of the fastest defenses I’ve played against. They flew around the ball and were very, very talented.”

The fumbles both helped and hurt the Aztecs. It helped for obvious reasons, especially getting the ball back for the offense. But it hurt because the defense wasn’t recovering most of them, which in turn kept the game close. Long thought the game might have played out differently if some of those bounces went in favor of his team. “You turn the ball over eight times and only get three of them, that’s not a good deal,” Long said to the media. “If you get more than three of them and you capitalize on them, then it’s not a close game.”