Can SDSU football team follow in Aztec hoop men’s huge footsteps?

The San Diego State University men’s basketball team reached its nirvana with an appearance in this year’s NCAA Division I championship game against the University of Connecticut. The Aztecs finished runnerup by a score of 76-59 to the Huskies in the April 3 national final, but the statement – and unparalleled exhilaration – both had been achieved. The SDSU football team hopes to follow that example during the upcoming 2023 fall season. The Aztecs got a bead on what’s ahead when they held their annual spring scrimmage March 23 at Snapdragon Stadium. “We had a good spring in a lot of ways,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said. “We have to clean some things up. We’ll evaluate as coaches. We’ll grade the film and then start spring break. When the guys get back, we’ll have some great evaluations, great conversations. There will be some guys who may be disappointed in where they’re at but that’s just part of it. I really thought we had a good spring. I think the intensity that we played with was pretty good.” Team Aztec posted a 19-0 victory over Team Warrior in a spirited contest that featured five interceptions, including a pair by junior cornerback Noah Tumblin (Mira Mesa), including an electrifying 42-yard return, six sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, 12 pass breakups and one fumble recovery. “I think that’s probably one of our strengths as a football team,” Hoke said. “As a defensive coach, you like that, but as a head coach you would like it to be five interceptions and five touchdowns.” Junior Gabriel Plascencia (Bishop O’Dowd) kicked field goals of 55 and 42 yards for the game’s opening six points before senior tight end Mark Redman (Corona del Mar) caught a six-yard scoring pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Crum (Norco) for a 13-0 halftime lead. Sophomore Martin Blake (Canyon Springs Las Vegas) rounded out the scoring on a two-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, though the PAT was blocked. Blake rushed 15 times for 68 yards with one touchdown for Team Aztec, which put up 103 rushing yards on 28 carries with one touchdown while Team Warrior rushed for 36 yards on 21 attempts. Redshirt freshman Lucky Sutton (Cathedral Catholic) led Team Warrior with 25 yards on five carries. Six quarterbacks participated in the spring scrimmage – three on each team. Redshirt freshman Liu Aumavae (Limpview, Utah) completed eight-of-15 attempts for 102 yards with one interception. Norco’s Crum (8-of-18, 73 yards, one touchdown) and Blake (1-of-1, 11 yards) combined for 186 passing yards (17-of-34) with one touchdown and one interception. Senior Jalen Mayden (12-of- 22, 219 yards, three interceptions), sophomore D.J. Ralph (0-for-1, one interception) and redshirt freshman Tobin O’Dell (0-of-3) combined for 219 yards (12-of-26) with four interceptions. Sophomore Phillippe Wesley II led Team Warrior with two catches for 89 yards while senior Brionne Penny (Narbonne) had three catches for 68 yards Team Aztec’s receiving leaders included senior Darius Hyde (four catches, 61 yards) from Modesto College) and junior Raphael Williams Jr. (three catches, 50 yards) from Ft. Lauderdale). The defensive statistics are what pop out the most. Tackles leaders included sophomore safety Eric Butler (Centennial Corona) with 10 (four solo, six assists), redshirt linebacker Trey White (Eastlake) with six (one solo, five assists), redshirt freshman safety Josh Hunter (Temecula) with six (three solo, three assists) and sophomore linebacker New Zealand Williams (St. Bernard Carson) with six (all assists). Six players recorded one sack: sophomore linebacker Zyrus Fiseau Fiaseu from Liberty Las Vegas (13 yards), senior linebacker Vai Kaho from Bishop Manogue Reno (eight yards), senior defensive lineman Wyatt Draeger from Reno (eight yards), sophomore defensive lineman Darrion Dalton from Saguaro Ariz. (six yards), sophomore linebacker Brady Anderson from Bakersfield (six yards) and sophomore linebacker D.J. Herman from Bishop Gorman (one yard). Butler may have had the biggest defensive game with 10 tackles, one pass breakup and a 21-yard interception return. West Hills and Grossmont College alum Jack Browning handled punting and placekicking holding duties throughout the evening. Browning led the Aztecs in scoring with 90 points on 20 field goals and 30 PAT during the fall season. Hoke singled out several players for their standout performances. “J.D. Coffey (junior transfer safety from (Kennendale, Tex.) – he made some plays, he showed up,” the SDSU head coach said. “Our linebacker crew overall is a good crew. Cody Moon (junior transfer linebacker from Albuquerque) is gonna give us some significant snaps next year. Trey White is really playing well. Coop (senior linebacker Cooper McDonald from Haslet, Tex.) is playing better than he did. Brady Anderson’s a good football player, so I like that group as much as anybody.” Last year’s SDSU squad was mired in a quarterback controversy before Mayden emerged as a winner. He led the six signal-callers in passing yards in this year’s spring game but threw three picks. All passers remain under the watchful eye of Alpine native and El Capitan alumnus Ryan Lindley, wo returns to Montezuma Mesa as the team’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. SDSU kicks off its 2023 season with an Aug. 26 home game against Ohio at Snapdragon Stadium. In fact, the Aztecs’ opening three games of the upcoming season will be at Snapdragon Stadium, including non-league games against Idaho State on Sept. 2 and UCLA on Sept. 9. SDSU plays at Oregon State on Sept. 16 before returning to Snapdragon Stadium to host Boise State in its Mountain West opener on Sept. 22. The Aztecs return to the road for a pair of MW games at Air Force Academy on Sept. 30 and Hawaii on Oct. 14. SDSU returns to Snapdragon Stadium for two more conference matchups: Oct. 21 against Nevada and Nov. 4 against Utah State. The regular season ends with two road games — Nov. 11 at Colorado State, Nov. 18 at San Jose State – and a final home game: Nov. 25 against defending MW champion Fresno State in the renewal of the teams’ annual Oil Cal rivalry series. The MW championship game is scheduled Dec. 2.


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