When the San Diego State men’s basketball team made the NCAA Tournament last spring, it was the first time in school history the team had made back-to-back tournament appearances.
Even though it may seem like it has never happened, thanks to the football team’s success (or lack thereof) prior to last season, the team is on the verge of making consecutive bowl games for the first time since the 1966 and 1967 seasons.
This is quite an accomplishment, considering the team was 2-10 just three years ago.
Senior quarterback Ryan Lindley was the quarterback on that 2-10 team and has since guided the team toward the road of success it is currently on.
“It’s been a journey; there’s been a ton of improvement,” Lindley said. “It’s almost to the point now where I guess years from now we’ll look back on it and realize what it was, but for us the attitude and the environment has totally changed to where we don’t really think about that anymore. We set such a higher standard for ourselves as individuals and as a team.”
A team needs six wins for bowl eligibility, but it doesn’t guarantee a trip to a bowl game. Head coach Rocky Long has said a number of times that the team probably needs seven wins in order to assure itself a bowl berth.
Senior linebacker Miles Burris was excited about the possibility of making a return bowl trip, but realizes the Aztecs haven’t accomplished anything yet.
“It feels good; it’s good to know that it hasn’t been done in awhile and we have a chance to do it. But we have to go do it first, obviously,” Burris said at SDSU’s weekly press conference. “Six (wins) makes you bowl eligible, but we have to win at least seven (games) to make sure that we can go for sure. We’re just trying to have the best season we can. If the bowl game happens, that’ll be great but right now all the focus is on Colorado State.”
The Aztecs need a win against the Rams to become bowl eligible. CSU is 3-5, but boasts playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Sophomore running back Chris Nwoke leads the team in rushing with 554 yards and six touchdowns.
Sophomore linebacker Mike Orakpo leads the team in tackles with 64, while sophomore defensive lineman Nordly Capi leads the Rams with eight sacks.
Long said he expects CSU to play its best game of the season as it is trying to keep its own hopes for a bowl berth alive.
“Colorado State has talented players in a lot of positions,” Long said. “Their wide receivers are really good, their running backs are pretty good, their offensive line is good and on defense, their defensive line is the best in the league at rushing the passer.”
Not to be overlooked is CSU sophomore quarterback Pete Thomas, who is a San Diego native from Valhalla High School.
According to Long, Thomas has a better grasp of the offense this year. That might be a scary proposition for the Aztecs, because Thomas threw for 266 yards against SDSU last season as a true freshman.
There’s no doubt the Aztec defense will have to stop Thomas in order to gain a second consecutive bowl berth.