By Ken Ables with Sons of Montezuma
The 101st season of San Diego State Aztec Football kicks off this Saturday at 4pm PT vs. Ohio University. Not THE Ohio—but THAT Ohio University.
You know, from that one time SDSU lost to a Mid-American Conference team? Yeah, we try to forget too.
SDSU is looking to avenge the only previous game with the Bobcats, an embarrassing 27-0 loss in the 2018 Frisco Bowl. It was a surprising loss to our Aztecs program back then and served as the next to last season for our old ball coach Rocky Long.
This years game the Aztecs will not be caught by surprise.
One specific thing to note for me: These 2023 Aztecs are the first team since 1940 with absolutely zero players on it from teams my father, Tom Ables saw in all his 788 games. (Dad passed away during the 2017 season).
Chance Bell, Seyddrick Lakalaka and Caden McDonald were the last three remaining members of the 2017 Aztecs playing for State. All three of them exhausted their eligibility last year in the 2022 season.
How was this possible? For the undying loyalty of a fan that spanned more than seven decades, it took a combination of disruptions to the schedule early and late in that time span—World War II in the ‘40s and COVID in 2020. That’s 80 consecutive teams!
Tom’s first season watching SDSU football was 1946. Aztecs Morris Shepard played in 1941, ’42 and ’46. Larry Berger played in 1945 and ’47. The Aztecs did not field teams 1943-44.
From Shepard and Berger to Bell, Lakalaka and McDonald, Tom saw them all; 788 out of 794 games, including every home game and all but six on the road, and exactly 600 consecutive games between 1964 and 2015.
My family and I are carrying on his tradition, and when you combine Tom’s and my records, we have been to 821 Aztec Football games over 77 seasons as a family. That equals to 78% of all Aztec games played!
But enough about the Ables—let’s get back to Ohio.
For Ohio there are even closer connections to that 2018 Bobcat team. Starting quarterback Kurtis Rourke is younger brother to Nathan Rourke who was behind center in that victory for Ohio. Nathan currently a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars organization, was terrific that day. But make no mistake about it, it’s the younger brother Kurtis that comes into Saturdays game as much more of an NFL prospect.
The Canadian QB nicknamed “The Maple Missile” is an over 60% passer who won the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2022. Despite injuring his ACL towards the end of the year Kurtis has rehabbed and is back to make the opening day start on Saturday.
Applying pressure and not allowing him to get in a comfortable rhythm his first game back is the ultimate key. One person on the Aztecs defensive line who can directly be responsible for that pressure is Senior lineman Daniel Okpoko.
Daniel Okpoko and 2023 Captain Cedarious Barfield are the only members of the 2023 Aztecs that were on the 2018 team that suffered that embarrassing loss to the Bobcats.
As mentioned, that 2018 Frisco Bowl is the only game the Aztecs have ever lost to a MAC team (15-1-1 overall). None of us want to see a second one. I feel confident they will both let the team know just how much SDSU owes the Bobcats a payback L.
Kickoff is at 4pm PST on Saturday and the game is televised on FS1. Forecast calls for temperature in the high 70s with no tropical storms or rain on the radar—so there’s no excuse to miss it. I’ll be there for my 455th Aztec football game, and looking for a payback W.
See you at Snapdragon!