San Diego State and San Jose State meet tonight for the 45th time. The Aztecs lead the series 22-20-2, and have won seven of the past eight games. The one loss? Last year: a 28-17 Spartan win in their Mountain West championship year. It is still the only Aztec loss at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The Aztecs head into 88-year-old Spartan Stadium tonight looking to avenge last year’s game. The Spartans won 14 of the first 17 games played in the series that dates back to 1935. The Aztecs won in 1936 and 1937, and the teams played to a 27-27 tie in 1956. Other than that, it was all San Jose State.
The Aztecs headed to San Jose for their fourth consecutive road game with a 4-0 record that included wins over Mexico Poly, Weber State, Cal Poly SLO and Long Beach State. San Jose was a major program back then, and had already beaten Oregon and Cal earlier in the season. The Aztecs were in the College Division (the equivalent of D2 today).
Spartan QB Danny Holman was leading the nation in total offense going into the game. John Madden – an Aztec defensive assistant prior to Oakland Raider and video game fame – solved the mystery of the Spartan’s complicated offensive scheme and turned the Aztec defense loose.
Final score: Aztecs 25, Spartans 0. And it wasn’t that close.
The Aztec D, led by Leo Carroll and Cliff Hancock, held Holman to 7-12 passing for 46 yards with one interception, and sacked him for losses totaling 65 yards. The Spartans were held to 56 total offense yards, including -5 yards rushing.
Aztec QB Don Horn was 13-29 for 141 yards and threw 2 TD passes to WR Haven Moses. Ted Washington rushed for 85 yards and Don Shy added 52 more yards and a TD. Craig Scoggins kicked a field goal and two extra points. And Hancock blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety.
Sports Illustrated sent Gary Ronberg to the game to write about the Holman and the Spartans; he returned with a glowing report about a “might win for a minor with major ambitions”: https://vault.si.com/vault/1966/10/24/mighty-win-for-a-minor-with-major-ambitions
That win and article 55 years ago put the Aztecs and head coach Don Coryell on the map. The Aztecs finished the year 11-0 and ranked #1 in the College Division poll. Three years later, the Aztecs moved up to Division 1.
Fourteen members of that 1966 championship team were drafted, including two in the first round (Horn 1967, Moses 1968) and four in the second. Six players and two coaches, as well as the team are in the Aztec Hall of Fame. Coach Coryell is in the College Hall of Fame; assistants John Madden and Joe Gibbs are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.