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SDSU is Effete Alongside the Elite

San Diego State aims for games like it played Thursday night. OK, maybe not like the game it played . Let’s just say it aims for games like the one it wished it played.

Al Luginbill, the coach, calls them “hump games.”

These are games he feels the Aztecs have to win to step up in class and become a national rather than regional factor. By regional, we mean an area bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Camp Pendleton, Mt. Laguna and Mexico. You cannot expand this region much more without running into the likes of UCLA.

This was what happened to SDSU Thursday night.

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It ran into the Bruins and got bumped off that darned hump once again. Bumped? More like dumped, 37-12. It can’t seem to get over it.

These hump games are important to a program obsessed with stepping up in class and beating teams such as UCLA, Brigham Young and Miami. The Aztecs gave UCLA scares in 1984 and 1989, beat BYU in 1986 and 1988 and battled Miami to that 30-28 loss last year. That Miami game left an impression that the San Diego State program was on the brink of being there.

Maybe it was a mirage.

Those lopsided victories over Cal State Long Beach and Pacific created a feeling that something special was going on. Unfortunately, you have to play special games against special teams. That 21-20 loss at Air Force last week diminished the enthusiasm just a bit, as Thursday night’s crowd of 37,333 indicated. Most of these people opted to depart before they needed the postgame fireworks to awaken them.

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As it turns out, 1991 doesn’t look so special.

Call it back to the past.

Or, in the case of the offense, worse than the past.

For all of their heroics against Long Beach and Pacific, the Aztecs do not have an offense.

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It’s that simple.

The offense does not seem to be in sync with the personnel. The offense is based on the notion that SDSU can pass the football.

Hasn’t it always?

These guys should forget they have an All-American wide receiver in Patrick Rowe. If no one can get the ball to him, what difference does it make? Cree Morris is having so much trouble getting settled into place as Dan McGwire’s successor that David Lowery was into the game in the third quarter as his successor.

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To move the football, SDSU is going to have to run counter to its tradition and run with its runners. It has to run with T.C. Wright and Marshall Faulk. It is not that Wright and Faulk do not get the football. They do. The problem is how and where they get it.

The offense is based on the idea that the pass is going to intimidate people, back them up and spread them out. Consequently, the running game seems based on draws and delays. This certainly did not work against UCLA, which undoubtedly took note that SDSU passes rarely landed in the same ZIP code with the receiver. The Bruins took off on the running backs, who had the handicap of waiting for the handoff a few yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Remember, these were the big guys on the defensive side of the ball.

Undoubtedly, a quarterback controversy will come out of this affair. Lowery, after all, moved the Aztecs to a pair of touchdowns. However, it should be noted that the first drive followed an interception by Damon Pieri, which enabled them to start at their 49. There were two big plays, a 16-yard run by Faulk and . . . voila . . . a 25-yard pass from Lowery to Rowe. Faulk scored on a one-yard run. Later, Lowery threw a rather nifty 26-yard scoring pass to Darnay Scott during garbage time late in the game.

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Lowery for President? Too early in the campaign to make a call, but it might be worthwhile seeing a bit more of him.

UCLA, meanwhile, was running a big-time offense. It was imaginative and had the benefit of being run by a quarterback, Tommy Maddox, with a year of experience. The Bruins ran a wide variety of plays from a wide variety of sets and kept SDSU constantly off-guard. They even got a first down on a fumble, which was probably not in their playbook. What’s more, Maddox threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass on a broken play.

If anything, SDSU was lucky it was not uglier than it was. The score was 10-0 at the half, even though SDSU’s defense had never stopped the Bruin offense. UCLA had stopped three drives with penalties and one with a fumble. It could easily have scored another 14 to 21 points but for its own untimely mistakes.

Consider that the Bruins gained 314 yards and had the ball for 18:39 of the first half and scored only 10 points.

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The national television audience had to be wondering if either team had shown up. Two streakers, undoubtedly taking sign saying “SDSU: Every Student Parties Naked” to heart, moved better than the SDSU offense. Maybe they should have put them in uniform for the second half.

The Aztecs had to come out of this one with a very empty feeling. They had proven to be not-for-prime-time, or least least not-for-big-time, performers.

Once again, their chances of attracting the attention of a bowl game had been rather badly bruised . . . or maybe totally dashed.

How high are these humps, anyway?

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