November 21, 2008
By John Philip Wyllie
For the San Diego State Aztec Football team the 2008 season started off poorly and got progressively worse from there. Decimated by injuries across the defensive line, the Aztecs never developed a consistent run defense. And without that or an effective pass rush they were doomed.
Jonathan Soto, one of the few defensive lineman to avoid major injury, lined up each week with a new cast of characters. At times, he was asked to move out of his comfort zone and play defensive tackle. Due to the rash of injuries the players around him were pressed into service long before they would have normally been. The resulting lack of continuity was not a pleasant thing for Aztec fans to watch.
On Saturday evening the Aztec football season concludes when (5-6) UNLV visits the (1-10) Aztecs for a 5:00 p.m. kickoff at the “Q”. While they are playing now only for pride, the Aztecs hope to finish their season on a positive note and carry some momentum with them to when they open the 2009 campaign next year. They also hope to avoid going winless in their conference for the first time since 1960.
“We just had an unexpected number of injuries this year,” said Soto. “We had a ton of injuries on our defensive line and some injuries at the other positions as well. At one point of the season, I was on the field with three new guys at the same time. We could just not stop the run. Nearly every team that we played ended up with almost 500 rushing yards. They were just running up the middle. The young guys tried to step it up, but they could only do so much.”
Soto and his teammates have not lost hope. They believe that next year fans could see a vastly different team.
“I think we have done a great job of staying positive and I think a lot of that is attributed to coach (Chuck) Long. He makes sure that we keep our heads up. Our job is to leave it on the field every time we step on to it. We are definitely motivated especially this week because we want to go out the right way. We especially want to do it for our seniors. This is their last game and that is all the motivation we need. We want to do it for our seniors.”
The fact that they are playing a mediocre UNLV team this week rather than another powerhouse such as BYU, TCU or Utah should keep this game competitive.
Soto and his teammates will no doubt want to get away from football for a few weeks following the game and give their battered bodies time to heal it. Then it will be back to the gym where they will renew their commitment to turning this program around.
“I think we could be a great team next year defensively because we are not losing too many guys. One of our troubles in the past has been our lack of experience. We have spent this whole year, loses and all gaining experience. I think our success will be determined by how hard everybody works in the off-season, especially when no one is looking. It is definitely going to be my goal to bring the young guys along with me to do extra workouts. I have already spoken to a few of them and they have agreed to accompany me.”