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FLASHBACK: Aztecs & Lobos Shared Football History And Rocky Long

When asked, most Aztec fans would say that we had played Fresno State more than any other teams, and that is correct. The two teams will play for the 60th time later this month. Second: San Jose State with 44 games so far. Who is third on the list? UNLV? Long Beach? Pacific? No, no and no.

Believe or not, number three on the list is the University of New Mexico. The Lobos and Aztecs will meet for the 43rd time Saturday at 6:00 in Dignity Health Sports Park.

And there will be some familiar faces on the New Mexico sidelines. Head Coach Danny Gonzales, an SDSU assistant from 2011-17 and, of course, the second-winningest head coach in Aztec history: Rocky Long. The former Aztec and Lobo head coach is back at his alma mater as defensive coordinator. Rocky was a QB for the Lobos in the 1970s, but he never played against the Aztecs.

Rocky Long during his time on the Mesa. Photo by Ernie Anderson

The Aztecs lead the series 27-15, and three of those losses came in the 1950s. There was one constant in the series between 1998 and 2019: Head Coach Rocky Long. In 16 games as head coach between the teams, Rocky is 14-2: 5-0 with the Aztecs and 9-2 with the Lobos. In other words, New Mexico, without Rocky Long as head coach, is 6-25 vs. San Diego State, with only 3 wins since 76. On the Aztec sideline, Brady Hoke is 2-0 vs. New Mexico.

One of my Dad’s favorite stories from the series came from a road win in 1979. Albuquerque is 5,000 feet above sea level. Not Wyoming altitude, but the air is noticeably thinner than at sea level. In the visitors locker room that day was a sign that pointed out the elevation and asked if you were having trouble breathing. Aztec Head Coach Claude Gilbert was not amused. Aztec Hall of Famer Pete Inge, an offensive lineman on that team recalled this week:

“Claude’s exact words were: ‘We’re going to kick their ass and tear down that sign and take it back to San Diego and put it in their locker room when they come to San Diego next year!’ I had never seen Coach that fired up.” 

The Aztecs left Albuquerque with a 35-7 win and the sign.

Aztecs 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, offensive lineman Pete Inge vs New Mexico, 1979. Photo by Ernie Anderson

Learn more Aztecs Football history with GO AZTECS! by Tom Ables. Photography by Ernie Anderson and others. Click below to get your copy today!

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