Column: SDSU secondary must improve following poor play against Stanford


Photo by Aaron Tolentino

Junior cornerback Ron Smith (17) and sophomore linebacker Andrew Aleki tackle Stanford senior wide receiver Trenton Irwin following a catch during the Aztecs 31-10 loss to Stanford on Aug. 31 at Stanford Stadium.

by Kyle Saunders, Staff Writer

The rematch of one of San Diego State’s best games last season was much like blockbuster movie sequels: it disappointed.

SDSU had prepared for this game by focusing on stopping Bryce Love, Stanford University’s senior Heisman candidate at running back. They succeeded in stifling the run by holding Love to 29 yards on 18 carries, but the weakness in their defensive secondary was exposed.

Stanford head coach David Shaw said the Cardinal offense had to adjust at half time, as they switched from focusing on the run to relying on their passing game.

“[There was] a lot of blitzing and stunting. We tried to stay with them as long as we could. And in doing so, they left obviously JJ Arcega-Whiteside, in particular, one-on-one,” Shaw said, “So we came back at halftime and said, okay, let’s just stop being stubborn; let’s go take advantage of it.”

A big part of SDSU’s win last year depended on several mistakes made by then-starting quarterback Keller Chryst, but this season’s starter, K.J. Costello, gave the Aztecs almost nothing to work with.

Costello finished with with 332 yards through the air to go with four touchdowns and one interception, and is a significantly better passer than Chryst, who transferred from Stanford after losing the starting job to Costello during the middle of last season.

Stanford wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside looked more like the Heisman candidate Friday night, carrying the Stanford offense with three touchdowns and over 220 yards receiving.

SDSU junior cornerback Ron Smith, sophomore warrior Tariq Thompson and junior cornerback Kyree Woods were unable to stop Whiteside from having a monster game.

“They had a receiver we couldn’t cover,” head coach Rocky Long said.

Last year, turnovers were the magic ingredient in SDSUs win over Stanford.

Stanford did not make the same mistake twice, only turning the ball over once after an interception by senior defensive end Noble Hall.

Hall fumbled the ball, however, Stanford quickly recovered it.

Omitting Hall’s fumble, the Aztecs committed zero turnovers, yet were called for 11 penalties for 125 yards. The secondary was responsible for five of them, including one Stanford scoring drive in the third quarter which included three pass interference penalties, two of them on consecutive plays.

Long said the Aztecs must be able to rely on their secondary to play well.

“You have to count on your DB’s to make a play every once in a while, which we didn’t,” he said.

SDSU has changes in the secondary from last season, big time names and leaders like former safeties Kameron Kelly and Trey Lomax have graduated.

SDSU is going to need someone to step up and fill the roles players Kelly and Lomax once had.

Junior linebacker Kyahva Tezino said the lack of experience played a part in the defensive mishaps.

“We just have to get our corners more experience,” Tezino said. “They found a weakness, I guess, in our defense.”

Although it was a loss, maybe Stanford inadvertently lit a fire under the Aztecs secondary, one they desperately need to succeed in the future.