Hawaii Bowl Preview: Meet The Aztecs

Hey all, a couple weeks ago I struck up a conversation with Dave over at San Diego Sports Domination to do a little back-and-forth leading up to the bowl game.  Turns out we don’t know much about each other’s teams since they sit on opposite sides of the country.  I figured it was easiest to get to know their team by letting them tell us about it.  You can see my, “Meet the Bearcats” article on their site late today.  For now, here is their contribution and your formal introduction to the San Diego State Aztecs.  – Mike

First off, big thanks to Mike for working with us over at SanDiegoSportsDomination.com! Secondly, I am the CEO & Founder of SDSD and am a major fan. I was the lead editor of the San Diego State FanSided back when the FanSided network still had an SDSU site. I have covered the Aztecs for over six years as a student. I have been a SDSU expert for ESPN 1700 San Diego. My articles have been linked to many newspapers around the US including SI, ESPN, Seattle Times, FanSided, SB Nation and many others. I look forward to this collaboration and giving your fans an insider look at San Diego State Football.

Following a 2-10 season in 2008 the Aztecs decided to end the worst era of Aztec Football. This era spanned two coaches Tom Craft (2002 – 2005) and Chuck Long (2006 to 2008). Those coaches combined for 28 wins and 56 losses. The Aztecs had not played in a bowl game since December of 1998. The Aztecs needed to get back on track and selected Ball State head coach Brady Hoke to turn the program around. Following a 2-10 season in 2008 the Aztecs finished the 2009 season at 4 and 8. In 2010 the Aztecs had their first winning season since Ted Tollner’s team went 7-5 in 1998 and lost the Las Vegas bowl 13-20 against University of North Carolina (UNC). Brady Hoke led San Diego State to their first bowl game (Poinsettia Bowl against Navy in 2010) since the Vegas Bowl in 1998.

This brings us to current San Diego State Head Coach Rocky Long. Since taking over the Aztecs in 2011 with the departure of Hoke to Michigan Long is 42-23 and has five (5) straight bowl game appearances. SDSU has been to a university record six (6) straight bowl games. Rocky Long is also the most winning coach in the history of the Mountain West Conference. Long’s career record is 107- 92 with 10 career bowl game appearances. One stat that Aztecs hate is that Long is 2-7 in bowl games. The Aztecs have sent many players to the NFL dating back to the mid 1960’s some of those more famous alumni are Herm Edwards, Brian Sipe, Todd Santos, Dan McGwire (Brother of San Diego Padres Bench Coach Mark McGwire), Marshall Faulk (HOF), La’Roi Glover, Kyle Turley, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Kirk Morrison, Freddy Keiaho and many others. Famous SDSU coaches include Don Coryell and John Madden. The Aztecs currently have 10 current Aztecs playing in the NFL. Overall we have had over 100+ play in the NFL including 15 players selected to Pro Bowls and 29 Super Bowl Appearances.

This season the Aztecs were unanimous picks to win the Mountain West Conference Western Division. The Aztecs did just that and finished the season undefeated in MWC play. Not only did the Aztecs beat their opponents they dominated them. The Aztecs finished conference play scoring an average of 36.1 points per game and holding opponents to an average of 10.4 points per game. It’s not easy to go undefeated in conference play and win every game by double figures. This San Diego State team is one of only a handful of teams to do that dating back to 2000.

Now let’s get down to the stats now that we know the team. San Diego State is known for defense. The Aztecs have the best defense in the Mountain West and one of the best in the nation. Here are some of the noticeable NCAA overall defensive stats.

Total Defense: 5th (Best in the MW)
Passing Defense: 15th (Best in MW)
Rushing Defense: 5th (Best in MW)
Turnovers Gained: 2nd with + 31 (Best in the MW)
Most INT’s: 5th with 20 (2nd Best in the MW)

San Diego State has the best linebackers and defensive backs in the MW. The two main players for the Aztec defense is LB Calvin Munson and Mountain West Defensive player of the year DB Damontae Kazee. Kazee currently leads the Aztecs in interceptions with seven (7). Kazee was named a 2nd team All-American for his defensive play this season. The Aztecs struggled with the pass out of the gate against CAL and Penn State. Since those games the Aztecs have been solid. On offensive the player to look at is Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey is one of the best running backs in the nation. With 4,173 yards rushing as of now Donnel Pumphery is 87th on the all-time leading rushers in College Football History. Pumphrey was named the 2015 Mountain West Offensive player of the year. SDSU will be without Kentucky QB transfer Maxwell Smith for the bowl game. He tore his ACL in the last home game of the season against Nevada. You will see redshirt freshman Christian Chapman get his 2nd career start in the bowl game. However, you might see Smith play a few snaps. SDSU is debating doing a ceremonial start if he can drop back into the pocket with limited pain. If that happens expect him to only play one series before the freshman is brought in.