Football coaches tend to dread first games because so much can go wrong with an unknown team.
Yet, three things did not go wrong for San Diego State in its season opener Saturday night--offense, defense or special teams. Coach Doug Scovil thus had little to worry about as the Aztecs beat Cal State Long Beach, 34-14, before 30,866 fans at Jack Murphy Stadium.
The offense, after being held without a touchdown the first half, scored 24 points in the second half.
The defense limited quarterback Doug Gaynor of Long Beach to 195 yards passing. Last week, Gaynor passed for 354 yards in a 19-17 loss to Utah State.
And the special teams scored San Diego’s first touchdown. Alfred Jackson blocked a punt that LeRoy Wardell recovered on the two-yard line and returned for a touchdown.
The offense got going in the second half behind the passing of Todd Santos. After passing for just 64 yards the first half, Santos ended the night with 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Webster Slaughter was Santo’s favorite receiver, catching five passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. Slaughter’s 49-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter gave the Aztecs a 27-14 lead.
“We ran a lot more draws and play-action the second half,” Santos said. “It caused their linebackers to come up and leave the middle open occasionally.”
San Diego State led at halftime, 10-7, despite being dominated statistically. Long Beach held the edge in total yards the first half, 231 to 141.
The Aztecs finally had a touchdown drive on their first possession after halftime, moving 61 yards on eight plays. Chris Hardy scored on a 7-yard run, giving the Aztecs a 17-7 lead.
O’Brien gave the Aztecs a 20-7 lead with a 46-yard field goal 9:05 into the third quarter. It was O’Brien’s 10th straight successful field goal, one short of tying the Western Athletic Conference record.
Long Beach received a break later in the quarter when Slaughter fumbled away a punt at the Aztec 26. Gaynor hit Charles Lockett on a five-yard touchdown with 2:32 left in the quarter, cutting San Diego’s lead to 20-14.
Slaughter wasted little time in making amends for his mistake catching Santos’ long pass for a touchdown on the last play of the third quarter. Santos hit Brett Blanchard with an eight-yard scoring pass in the final quarter.