Aztecs assigned to play in New Mexico Bowl against Central Michigan


Kareem Jones

Senior linebacker Kyahva Tezino reacts after a play during the Aztecs’ 13-3 victory over BYU on Nov. 30

by Aaron Tolentino, Sports Editor

San Diego State football will play in the New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, according to an announcement made Sunday.

The Aztecs (9-3) will face Central Michigan (8-5) who fell in the Mid-American Conference championship 26-21 to Miami (Ohio) last Saturday.

Aztecs head coach Rocky Long said he discovered what bowl game his team is in via text and was also waiting for the announcement on TV.

“Actually, the first text I got was from the bowl director of New Mexico that he told me we’re going there,” Long said. “I didn’t know that for sure yet because I was waiting for it to go on TV.

“I was happy that we finally figured out where we were going. It’s nice to know you won enough games that you’re going to a bowl game because I’ve been on a couple 6-6 teams that got left at home. That’s devastating to your team.”

This will be the second consecutive year the Aztecs will play a MAC school. SDSU lost to Ohio 27-0 in last year’s Frisco Bowl.

“We are very happy with another really good matchup,” New Mexico Bowl Executive Director Jeff Siembieda said in a statement. “San Diego State has one of the nation’s best defenses and is playing for double-digit wins for the fourth time in the past six seasons. Central Michigan is in the midst of a special season having gone from 1-11 to playing for the MAC championship with a high-powered offense.’’

Siembieda is right about the Aztecs’ defense. Their strength this season has been the defense.

They finished off the regular season in the top 10 nationally in multiple statistical categories: fourth in scoring defense (12.8), fifth in total defense (288.7 yards per game allowed), second in rushing defense (72.3 yards) and ninth in interceptions (15).

Did the committee pair these teams because of SDSU’s stout defense and Central Michigan’s “high-powered offense”?

Long didn’t necessarily think so.

“I don’t know. That’s a good storyline though, right? ” he said with a smile. “I mean you’re trying to get people to start buying tickets and watch on TV or trying to get them excited, so that’s a good storyline. I’m not sure that’s why they picked us and them.”

Siembieda graduated from SDSU, and Long added perhaps that may have played a role in selecting the Aztecs.

Long said coaches have almost no control over what bowl game their respective teams will play in. He gave his explanation on how the process of getting a bowl invite works.

Negotiations are between Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson and bowl game executives. Coaches can try and call to have their input taken into account, but Long said that ultimately doesn’t affect the bowl assignments.

Update: This article was updated at 5:51 p.m. on Dec. 8.