September 26, 2008

Idaho Vandals Provide Aztecs a Golden Opportunity

By John Philip Wyllie

Winless in their first three attempts, the San Diego State Aztecs find themselves teetering on the brink of the abyss as the current football season moves toward its second month. The Aztecs need a victory more than a tribe of nomadic Bedouins need their water. The good news is that they have an excellent chance of getting one on Saturday night.

If you think the Aztecs have problems, and they do, let’s look at their next opponent: the University of Idaho Vandals. The Vandals opened their season with a humiliating 70-0 loss to unranked Arizona. They then bounced back in week two to defeat lowly Idaho State 42-27 (note to SDSU Athletic Director: We need to get Idaho State on the schedule next year). Then they were blown out 51-28 and 42-17 in weeks three and four against two more unranked opponents. That is an average of 47.5 points allowed per game. Precisely the type of defense the doctor ordered to get the Aztecs into the win column.

After coming close, but losing to Cal Poly and Notre Dame the Aztecs took three steps backward against San Jose State in their last outing two weeks ago falling 35-10. Last weekend’s bye week provided them the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and to heal themselves, especially on defense.

At one point, the defensive line was so thin due to injuries that linebacker Russell Allen, a Vista High product, had to fill in at defensive end and Jonathan Soto, a natural defensive end had to slide over into the tackle position. With several players now returning from injuries the Aztecs are in the best health they have experienced all year. And nobody is ready to throw in the towel just yet.

“Just because we are 0-3 it doesn’t mean anything,” said sophomore Aztecs running back, Brandon Sullivan (Poway High). “We are still going hard and nobody is down. We still have nine games left and we are going to go hard every week. More than just the captains are leading us now. We just go out every day at practice and perform. We know the talent that we have on this team and everyone knows their role and how to play it. So we go out there with high expectations every week and perform every week. We are going to do our best to win.”

On Saturday night the University of Idaho will provide the Aztecs with what may be their best chance to win a game all season.

“Don’t let their record fool you,” Sullivan said. “When we watched them on film they were a good team. They just had a couple of mishaps and couple of big plays on them. There were a couple plays that should have been made that weren’t. Like us, they are a pretty athletic team, but they also don’t have a good record.”

Sullivan was used sparingly last year, but showed glimpses of talent when he was given the opportunity. He had a career day against UNLV where he rushed for 70 yards on 10 carries and caught six passes for an additional 68 yards. Unfortunately, mostly due to lack of opportunity, he was unable to replicate that performance.

This year he has developed into the team’s leading ground gainer sporting a 4.4 average on his 25 carries. As his young offensive line matures, Sullivan may start to realize some of the potential that he exhibited last year against the Rebels.

“Brandon is a good all-around back,” according to Aztecs Head Coach, Chuck Long. “He does a nice job of running the football and pass blocking. He is very smart and he knows the schemes. He has come a long way since day one. He is not there yet, but he is working toward that.”

“Those local guys (like Sullivan) have a lot of pride because they have grown up here and they want to show the hometown folks that they are here to stay,” Long continued. “They want to do well in front of their families and their friends.”

Sullivan and the other local guys on the San Diego State roster will have a golden opportunity to do just that Saturday night.

Return to the Frontpage