Not Until 3rd Period Did Cupcake Crumble
Impressions of a Sunday evening at the Murph with San Diego State’s Aztecs. . . .
Opening the season with a cupcake such as Cal State Long Beach can be very dangerous. The victory didn’t mean much, and a loss would have been devastating. And it was scary until the Aztecs scored 23 points in 51 seconds early in the third quarter.
So it wasn’t quite as easy as 49-13 might make it seem.
The Fill the Murph campaign came up a few thousand seats short, like maybe 33,251. Folks get tubed out watching the National Football League. And no one realized the 49ers were in town.
Please , muzzle the alumni cheerleaders. Why do college graduates, of all people, have to be told when to cheer?
T.C. Wright sure tasted the sweet and the bitter very quickly. He returned the first Long Beach punt 78 yards and then fumbled the second one away. The 78-yard return positioned the Aztecs for a field goal, but the fumble presented Long Beach with a touchdown.
Wright’s 78-yard return gave Cree Morris rather nice field position for his first series of downs as SDSU’s quarterback. The ball was at the Long Beach 12. However, three plays gained one yard, and Andy Trakas kicked a 24-yard field goal.
Another thing Wright’s lengthy return did was give freshman Marshall Faulk an official “start” in his first collegiate game. Faulk carried for two yards on the Aztecs’ first play from scrimmage while Wright caught his breath on the sidelines.
That little play may ultimately be a milestone. This kid Faulk may just write his name alongside a few records before his four years are finished. Later, in the third period, he picked up his first collegiate touchdown as well. (We’ll excuse the two fumbles, though the coaches may not.)
Either this game was incredibly poorly played or the officials were incredibly overzealous. It was hard to get a feel for the flow of the game because there was none. Too many flags.
Patrick Who? Didn’t the Aztecs have an All-American candidate at wide receiver? Patrick Rowe did not catch a pass until 7:34 remained in the first half. He was certainly a big factor on the scoring drive at the end of the first half. He caught one pass for 18 yards and then drew double coverage and left Larry Maxey open for a 26-yard reception on the next play.
Later, it was explained that Rowe had a bruised shoulder. Another request. Please take him off kickoff returns. Why put him in high risk situations?
And who was that catching the pass which gave SDSU a 13-7 lead? Darnay Scott, like Faulk a true freshman, beat the defense down the right side for a 19-yard touchdown reception from Morris. Count them, two local heroes . . . Morris from Orange Glen and Scott from Kearny. And Dazzlin’ Darnay returned the second half kickoff 37 yards the second time he touched the ball in his collegiate career.
The easiest way to locate the ball when Long Beach had it was to follow SDSU linebacker Lou Foster. He was usually there. The pros would be drooling if he was a little taller than 5-10 and a little heavier than 225.
In keeping with what is becoming a traditional impatience with quarterbacks hereabouts, the fans actually booed Cree Morris after an incompletion late in the second quarter. And then he was robbed. Officials called a fumble on a play when his arm was clearly in motion forward.
There were no boos on that crisp 72-yard scoring drive to close the half.
At halftime, SDSU had gained 178 yards to 114 for the officials and 106 for Long Beach.
The Aztecs did what the other 49ers did to the Chargers when they came right out in the second half with a scoring march which had to be demoralizing after a tightly played first half.
How demoralizing? Wright’s three-yard touchdown run made it 21-7 with 11:43 to play in the third period. SDSU scored another touchdown and a safety in the next 23 seconds.
Kicker Trakas must have been caught off guard when Damon Pieri picked up a fumble and ran 26 yards for a touchdown on the first play after Wright’s touchdown. He promptly missed his first extra point kick after 91 consecutive successes . . . then missed another in the fourth period.
More than five minutes of the third quarter had elapsed and Long Beach’s offense had run two plays . . . the fumble and an interception. Long Beach finally ran its first play on which it did not lose possession with 5:43 elapsed.
When it comes to mobility, backup quarterback David Lowery has it all over Morris. He looked like Steve Young on his 11-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
The big question this year, of course, is the Aztec defense. It looked pretty good, giving up two touchdowns on 17-yard “drives” after turnovers.
But let’s be serious and not take this one too seriously. Long Beach came in with limited weaponry and then further cooperated by self-destructing. Score this one nice but indecisive.
The next one won’t be much of a test either. Pacific, an 84-26 loser to Cal Saturday, visits next week.
The first test will be Sept. 26 at Air Force.
Remember, these were the other 49ers.