Coin Toss Began Aztecs' Troubles

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Now, this may not exactly be the way you want to begin your football season, but it's how the San Diego State Aztecs started theirs Saturday before losing, 42-21, at Oregon:

Oregon won the toss and elected to defer choosing whether to kick or receive until the second half. So the decision reverted back to San Diego State.

"When I saw (Oregon) defer, I turned around to get our kickoff team ready," SDSU Coach Al Luginbill said. "When I turned back around, Coach (Dave) Ohton told me, 'You won't believe what happened. We made a mistake.' I said, 'What?!' "

The Aztecs chose to kick?

Yes. The Aztecs chose to kick.

Oregon then got to choose which end of the field to defend, so the Aztecs ended up kicking into the wind . Andy Trakas' kick traveled only to the 10, and Michael McClellan returned it to the 41.

"Our young men got confused," Luginbill said. "I was as surprised as anybody . . . but I have to take responsibility for it."

Luginbill doesn't name captains; various Aztec seniors represent the team at the coin-flip throughout the season. Saturday, Jimmy Raye, Morey Paul and Jason Bill did the duty.

But don't blame them for a day gone sour. There likely aren't enough erasers in the state to erase all of SDSU's mistakes.

Sunday, though, Luginbill wasn't moping as the game film rolled along. He wasn't swearing or throwing things. Muttering, maybe, but nothing out of the ordinary. The explanation was simple, he said. The Aztecs didn't execute. And that, he insisted, can be corrected.

The more difficult question to answer, though, was why the Aztecs didn't execute.

"I have no answer for that," he said. "I've been asking myself that same question from the start of the game . . .

"What I'll really be concerned about is if there isn't drastic improvement between this game and this Saturday's game (at home against Cal State Long Beach). Then we've got some real concerns. This is a gut-check week for this football program. . . . This group of young men has to decide how important it is to them to focus and take command of their personal responsibilities within a football game."

There were blown coverages, bad alignments and total breakdowns at times Saturday. Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave, a fifth-year senior, toasted the Aztecs for 31 completions (a personal best) and 443 yards (third most allowed ever by an Aztec defense). He threw for three touchdowns.

Receiver Tony Hargain caught 10 passes for 206 yards--fourth-best by a receiver against an SDSU defense. Tight end Jeff Thomason was left uncovered several times and ended up with 110 yards on seven catches.

Aztec free safety Johnny Walker led the team with 11 tackles. The free safety, the deepest guy in the defense, is not the person you want leading your team in that statistic.

"All during the week, our coaches told us that they were going to run a lot of formations and try to confuse us," cornerback Marlon Andrews said after the game. "We practiced, but we still got confused. We didn't align right, and it killed us."

How often were the Aztecs aligned wrong?

"Several times," Andrews said. "Almost every snap in the first quarter."

There were also 93 yards lost on 10 penalties. Four of them came in the first quarter alone, costing SDSU 39 yards.

Quarterback Dan McGwire (20 completions in 40 attempts for 223 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions) was inconsistent. Receivers dropped passes. Still, the Aztecs pulled to within 28-21 near the end of the third quarter.

"That became a real boxing match right there in the first part of the fourth quarter, latter part of the third quarter," Luginbill said. "And they knocked us out. We put our punch in there, and it wasn't good enough."

Aztec Notes

Well, at least the Aztecs can say nobody got hurt. They have no new injuries to report going into this week's game against Cal State Long Beach (0-2). The old ones, updated going into this week: linebacker Lou Foster (hamstring, probable for this week's game), defensive lineman Steve Matuszewicz (ankle, questionable) and defensive back Zac Stokes (shoulder, doubtful). . . . Schools normally exchange game film before they play each other. Cal State Long Beach Coach George Allen, though, does things differently, and Thursday, SDSU was informed it would not be receiving any. SDSU obtained one through Clemson, the 49ers' first opponent. Coach Al Luginbill said he was told that's the way Allen does things. "I think it's very unprofessional, but that's his deal," he said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
61°