Of all the lopsided losses the San Diego State football team has endured in the past two seasons, this one might have been the most devastating and embarrassing.
There was nowhere to hide and little pride left after No. 16 Wyoming pounded the Aztecs, 55-27, in front of 20,386 spectators at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and an ESPN nationwide audience.
The Aztecs had held hope that their return to Western Athletic Conference play after three one-sided losses to Pacific 10 Conference schools would mean a change of fortune. Instead, it led to another demonstration of just how far this program has fallen since the heady days of its 1986 Holiday Bowl appearance.
This game proved that the Aztecs’ problem goes far beyond playing superior Pac-10 teams. The gaffes, goof-ups, defensive lapses and offensive troubles that have haunted the Aztecs (1-4, 1-1 in WAC) in losses to UCLA, Stanford and Oregon were on display once again.
--The Aztecs, who had only 10 men on the field when Oregon scored its first two touchdowns in a 34-13 Aztec loss the week before, went that two better, times two. They were twice penalized in the first half for 12 men on the field, once on a kickoff return and another time on a field-goal try. Remarkably, even with the extra Aztec lineman, the Cowboys still blocked Tyler Ackerson’s 35-yard attempt.
--Showing old ways die hard, the Aztecs also tried playing with 10 men again. They started the second quarter one man short but, unlike Oregon’s touchdown success, the Cowboys managed only a 6-yard gain on a pass.
--The offensive line again found itself overmatched and quarterback Brad Platt spent much of the game running from a relentless Cowboy rush. He was sacked six times, was intercepted once, forced into an intentional grounding penalty that cost the Aztecs 32 yards and finished 18 for 39 for 230 yards. He once was harassed into three consecutive sacks, losing 35 yards and setting up a fourth-and-goal at Wyoming’s 44. The Aztecs opted to punt.
The collapse, as usual, was quick and decisive. It was another game that got away from the Aztecs before the first quarter was over. For the second week in a row, the Aztecs trailed, 21-0, in the first quarter. But even a score such as that did not illustrate the thoroughness of the rout.
Wyoming (6-0, 3-0) needed just 3 minutes 17 seconds to cover 207 yards on its first three touchdown drives, and even that time was inflated when the officials inadvertently let at least 30 extra seconds run off the clock after halfback Dabby Dawson ran 86 yards for Wyoming’s first touchdown.
To get the real flavor of the first-quarter follies, check this stat: The Aztecs were outgained 241-1 in total offensive yards.
With a start like that, it would figure that the Cowboys went on to amass final offensive statistics that were impressive by any standard--even the lowly one which the Aztec defense has established over the past two years.
Wyoming finished with 641 yards in total offense. The Cowboys gained 451 rushing and 190 passing.
Dawson, a junior transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, had the game of his young Cowboy career. He scored on touchdown runs of 86, 4, 10 and 11 yards in gaining 225 yards on 16 carries. It was the fourth time this season a back has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Aztecs.
Randy Welniak, Wyoming’s fifth-year senior quarterback who sat out last season after shoulder surgery, completed 15 of 25 passes for 190 yards. He also scored on touchdown runs of 14, 6 and 5 yards.
Only four Cowboy turnovers, including two interceptions thrown by Welniak, kept the score from being worse than it might have been.
It was Wyoming’s 15th consecutive regular-season victory over two years and gave them their first 6-0 start since 1969. The Cowboys have not lost in 11 WAC games since Paul Roach took over as coach before last season.
The loss was only the first for the Aztecs in WAC play, but much like their 52-10 early defeat in Laramie last season it signaled that they are a long way from competing for another conference title.
Their 1-4 start matches last season’s opening when they opened 1-6 on their way to a 5-7 record.
With fast-starting Hawaii due in Saturday and then a finish that has the Aztecs playing four of their final five games on the road, their is good reason for concern among the Aztecs.
Where last season, they were able to win some games despite their porous defense because of an potent offense, led by quarterback Todd Santos, this season the offense has been anemic.
Platt’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Monty Gilbreath in the second quarter was his first touchdown pass as an Aztec. The Aztecs’ four games without a scoring pass was their longest such streak since 1980. That coincidently was the last time an Aztec offense struggled as this one has to open a season.
SDSU has scored 95 points in five games. Not since the 1980 team scored 60 points in its first five games has an SDSU had has much trouble scoring.
The Aztecs’ only other touchdown came on a 3-yard run by Paul Hewitt in the third period. The score moved him alone into second place on SDSU’s all-time scoring list with 180 points, 12 behind leader Art Preston. But Hewitt, who has scored 6 touchdowns, is off the pace that last season gave him a nation’s best 24 touchdowns and made him only the sixth Aztec back to gain 1,000 yards.
Hewitt carried 13 times for 54 yards against the Cowboys and has 382 yards on the season.
About the only encouraging sign was the punting of Joe Santos. He averaged 44.9 yards on eight punts in his first full game since he replaced Bill Kushner.
And the Aztecs also were impressive on kickoff returns, averaging 24.6 yards. But then again, with a school-record tying nine tries, they had plenty of practice.
Morey Paul, a sophomore from Oceanside High School who last season was named freshman linebacker of the year by The Sporting News, did not start for the first time in 15 games. Paul had started every game at outside or inside linebacker since the fourth game of last season. Sai Niu, a sophomore from Oceanside, made his first college start in place of injured inside linebacker Lee Brannon (sprained knee). Milt Wilson, a junior who started previously as a defensive end, made his first start at outside linebacker for Kevin Maultsby, who played later despite a bruised neck nerve. . . . Gilbreath extended his streak to 19 consecutive games over two seasons in which he has caught at least one pass with a 2-yard pass in the first quarter. Chris Hardy set the school record of 23 consecutive games in 1986. . . . Split end Alfred Jackson (sprained finger), guard Nick Subis (shoulder) and cornerback Mario Mitchell (sprained ankle) left the game with injuries and did not return. Nose tackle Steve Blyth was ejected in third quarter after a personal foul. . . . Jackson, Mitchell and center Kevin Wells were named captains in a team vote earlier last week. . . . Wyoming entered the game with a 6-4 lead in the series that began in 1978, having beaten the Aztecs, 52-10 in Laramie last year. . . . SDSU ends its streak of three home weekends with a Saturday homecoming game against Hawaii at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. The Aztecs then go on the road for games at Colorado State and Utah before playing Brigham Young their last home of the season Nov. 5. Wyoming returns home to play New Mexico Saturday.