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A Funny Thing Happens to SDSU in Red-Black Game: Defense

TIMES STAFF WRITER

This was San Diego State, and it sure enough was football, but those were about the only things a crowd of 2,318 recognized in the Red/Black game in the Aztec Bowl Saturday night.

Coach Al Luginbill, who emphasized defense all through spring practice, liked what he saw. And those used to watching flashy offensive performances by SDSU teams were searching through their programs to read up on the defensive players.

The Red team--second-team offense and first-team defense--defeated the Black, 13-10. The score was low, and the yardage was low, but the enthusiasm was high for SDSU’s coaches.

“I think this was an indication of where this football program is headed,” Luginbill said. “A year ago in this game, it was like pillows hitting each other. This year, it was football players hitting each other.”

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Said Barry Lamb, the defensive coordinator: “If you saw us in the last spring game, you can tell we’ve improved. We remained intense and focused. We did a good job on the run, which was one of our goals. We did break down and lose it on a play or two, but we were able to get it back. Last year when that happened, we were lining up for the extra point.”

There were a total of 82 offensive plays, and just two went for 20 yards or more. One was a 23-yard pass from Cree Morris to Mert Harris, who had 74 yards on six catches. The other was a 22-yard run by Tommy Booker.

Andy Trakas contributed to both the Red and Black teams with three total field goals--from 40, 50 and 38 yards. He missed from 48 and 56.

Dan McGwire, the first-team quarterback playing for the Black, completed two of seven passes for 25 yards in just 1 1/2 quarters. Receivers Dennis Arey and Jimmy Raye--both expected to be first-teamers this fall--also had limited playing time.

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Booker, a graduate of Vista High, carried 11 times for a game-high 57 yards. He made just two of the five weeks of spring practice because of a hamstring problem but got plenty of work Saturday.

“He showed us the same thing he has shown us all along,” Luginbill said. “The ability to take the ball upfield with quickness.”

Said Booker: “I knew I was going to get pushed a little, but I didn’t feel it would be quite to that magnitude.”

He said the hamstring was still tender but that he felt OK.

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“The cutting part, yeah,” he said. “The acceleration part, nah.”

Curtis Butts carried 12 times for 47 yards, including a nine-yard run for the Red. Kipp Jefferies carried seven times for 39 yards, and T.C. Wright, a transfer from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, gained six yards on four carries.

“We’re fortunate to have four above-average running backs,” Luginbill said. “It’s a tribute to the defense that it didn’t break.”

Luginbill was especially pleased with the play of nickel backs Robert Griffith and Derrick Williams. Griffith was beaten on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Harris, but he made a nice play later on a reverse.

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Said Lamb: “We’ve grown up a lot since last spring. We’re better physically and tougher mentally. By no means are we a dominant defense, but we’re making progress.”

As for special teams, Luginbill was happy with freshman Jason Savorn, who averaged 35.7 yards on nine punts working for both the Red and Black.


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