Where have I seen this before? The Aztecs open with a win over Labor Day weekend, then beat a PAC-12 team on a hot night in Arizona, and return home to face another PAC-12 opponent in a blackout game. If you said 2017, you are correct! So far, 2021 is starting out just like 2017, although the blackout this week should be in the stands, not in the lights.
Despite a loss to in-state rival USC the previous week, Stanford came to San Diego in 2017 ranked #19 and ready to get back in the win column. The Aztecs, 2-0 after wins over UC Davis and Arizona State, had other ideas. After a scoreless first quarter, John Baron kicked a 43-yard field goal a minute into the second. Stanford answered with a TD and a 7-3 lead. With 43 seconds left in the second, Rashaad Penny scored on a 4-yard run give the Aztecs a 10-7 halftime lead.
In the second half, teams exchanged field goals for the only scoring in the third quarter. Stanford scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a 17-13 lead.
After a fourth quarter Stanford punt, the Aztecs took over on their 25 with 6:15 left in the game. A combination of Penny runs and Christian Chapman passes to Mikah Holder (covered by his twin brother Alijah) put the Aztecs at the Cardinal 42 with 3:58 left in the game.
Then the lights went out – not the kind of blackout the marketing staff could have envisioned – but definitely one they would take advantage of for years to come. A different kind of energy overtook the old Jack Murphy Stadium when the room went dark. The San Diego faithful, eager with anticipation of the games final drive, with cell phone flashlights a glow began to chant, “I believe That We Will Win! I believe That We Will Win! I believe That We Will Win!”
After a delay of more than 20 minutes, the Stadium maintenance crew was able to turn the lights back on. The Aztecs continued their march down the field to the Stanford 8 yard line. On a play action fake to Penny, Chapman rolled right, hit tight end David Wells who dove into the end zone for the go ahead touchdown with 54 seconds left in the game. Kameron Kelly’s interception on the next Cardinal play sealed the win for the Aztecs.
The combination of beating a ranked team, beating a PAC-12 team, the blackout delay and the last-minute come-from-behind win set off an Aztec victory celebration not seen since the ‘60s. After 51 seasons and 318 games at San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm/SDCCU and once again San Diego Stadium, fans rushed the field in a celebration that went on late into the night. One poor guy (not an SDSU student) tried to take a shortcut to the field and ended up in the hospital.
Will history repeat four years later? I think it will. Put on your black Aztec gear and head up to Diginity Health Sports Park on Saturday. See you in Carson.