By John Philip Wyllie
The San Diego State Aztecs will try to pick up the pieces from last weekend’s disappointing performance against Wyoming when they battle Colorado State (1-4, 0-1) Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the “Q”. Now 2-3 on the season and 0-1 in the Mountain West Conference, the Aztecs are facing a virtual must-win situation if they hope reach their goal of competing in a post-season bowl game.
Last week they did serious damage to their credibility as a much improved team by collapsing in the third quarter in Laramie after taking a half-time 10-3 lead. A combination of special team blunders, turnovers and a stagnant offense was the difference in a game that looked very winnable on the plane ride into town. The Aztec “Dark Side” defense played well enough to win holding the Cowboys to a mere 264 yards in total offense, but 10 points is rarely enough to win a football game and it simply wasn’t enough last weekend.
The Aztec offense has been plagued by injuries all season long. The much anticipated return of running back Lynell Hamilton was first delayed and then abandoned after his post-surgical ankle was deemed too painful to run on. Injuries across the offensive line have been an even bigger problem.
Continuity is the key on any offensive line and the Aztecs just haven’t had any. In five games they have sported five different starting lineups. With guard Mike Kravetz (injured wrist) guard Brandyn Dombrowski (two sprained ankles) and tackle Chris Pino (flu) the latest to join the walking wounded, Saturday’s game may see yet another new offensive line combination. Adding to the Aztecs offensive woes this week are injuries to both of their primary running backs. Brandon Bornes sustained a thigh injury and Michael Franklin twisted an ankle last Saturday. Both however, will likely play.
At his weekly press conference Aztec head coach, Tom Craft remained optimistic in spite of last week’s disappointing performance and expressed his continued faith in his quarterback, Matt Dlugolecki at a time when some are calling for back-up Kevin O’Connell.
“He’s really close to having some outstanding performances. He will continue to improve. It’s tough because we have had so many injuries and inexperienced players getting significant playing time,” Kraft said.
“I’m very proud of our guys for hanging in games and playing hard throughout. They’ve battled through injuries and the inexperienced players are getting more comfortable as the season progresses. You can’t lose a Lynell Hamilton from a team and expect to be the same offensively. To have (wide receiver) Wesley Williams go down and to have our offensive line so banged up is tough. Our goal is to finish the season strong.”
The Aztecs could take a giant step in that direction Saturday afternoon by handling the so far not too impressive Rams.