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The Top-10 SDSU Football Wins in Mission Valley—From GO AZTECS!

By Ken Ables

(All photos by Aztec Hall of Fame Photographer Ernie Anderson unless noted otherwise)

On September 15, 1967, the Aztecs kicked off their inaugural season in their new home in Mission Valley with a 16-8 victory over Tennessee State. It was the first of 336 games and 222 Aztec wins in San Diego Stadium, a facility that would change its name in coming years to Jack Murphy, Qualcomm (the “Q”) and SDCCU Stadium. I was in the stands for that first game, along with my parents, Tom and Nancy Ables, and my brother. And I was there for the 222nd and final win in 2019, a 13-3 win over hated BYU. In fact, I was there for all but one of those 222 victories (I missed North Texas State in 1975), and in the stands for 332 total games. And I plan to be at the first game at Snapdragon Stadium September 3rd when the Aztecs kickoff against Arizona on national TV.

If you are familiar with my family’s history with the Aztecs, you know that my Dad was the greatest college football fan of all time, attending 788 Aztec football games, between his freshman year at State in 1946 and his passing in 2017. He was at every single home game for those 72 seasons, and only missed six games on the road. And when you include college games the Aztecs did not play (Rose Bowls, Holiday Bowls, random college games on bye weeks), he attended more than 825 college football games. 

The Q is gone, of course, and Snapdragon Stadium has been built in the northwest corner of the old stadium’s parking lot on land that is now a part of San Diego State. After two years of “home” games 115 miles away, the Aztecs open the 2022 season on CBS in the first game played on campus since 1966.

Sports fans love lists and rankings. The Sons of Montezuma asked me what I considered the Top 10 Aztec wins at the Q. With 222 wins to choose from, that could have been a daunting task. Fortunately, my Dad had already done the heavy lifting. In his book GO AZTECS!, [link?] he lists his favorite games (he would wouldn’t limit himself to a number and wouldn’t rank them within the list). 

To kick off the 100th season of Aztec football – and my 61st and my family’s 77th – and the first season in Snapdragon Stadium, here are my top 10 Aztec wins in Mission Valley from GO AZTECS!, in chronological order:

#10. Southern Mississippi (1968)

The Southerners, as they were known then, came to San Diego leading the nation in total defense, and had just lost a last-minute heartbreaker to Alabama the week before. While they may have played Alabama close, Southern Miss had never seen anything like Don Coryell’s aerial attack – or his defense. Less than a minute into the game, Fred Dryer returned a USM interception 28 yards for a touchdown. Tom Nettles caught four of Dennis Shaw’s seven touchdown passes. The night before a USM coach had said they wanted to score 100, but that they would try to hold it down. Mission accomplished: Aztecs 68, Southern Miss 7. It was the Aztecs 34th win in their past 35 games. Don Coryell and Fred Dryer are members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

#9. Florida State (1977)

Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles came to San Diego 8-1 and ranked #13. FSU alum (and former Seminole RB) Burt Reynolds drove down from Hollywood for the game. FSU was looking to avenge their 1973 loss to the Aztecs and to work on a few things before their game with arch-rival Florida and their bowl. Claude Gilbert’s Aztecs had other ideas. David “Deacon” Turner rushed for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns. QB Joe Davis was 21 for 30 for 228 yards and threw three touchdown passes to Ron Smith. Final score: Aztecs 41, Florida State 16. Aztecs are 2-0 vs. Florida State.

#8. BYU (1986)

The Aztecs and Cougars met in the final game of the season with the WAC championship – and trip to the Holiday Bowl – on the line. The Aztec D held the high-powered BYU offense to 167 total yards and a single field goal. Chris Hardy rushed for 98 yards and scored on a 17-yard TD run; Kevin Rahill kicked a 39-yard field goal with 5:27 left. It was the second of three games at the Q where the Aztec D held the Cougars without a touchdown. Final: Aztecs 10, BYU 3.

#7. Pacific (1991)

The Marshall Faulk game. In a game he didn’t even start, Marshall came off the bench and rushed for an NCAA-record 386 yards as a true freshman. And he scored 44 points (7 TDs and a 2-point conversion), another NCAA record. Marshall set nine NCAA records in that game (six still stand), and overnight became the talk of college football. Final score: Aztecs 55, Pacific 34. In his three years with the Aztecs, Marshall was a three-time All-American and a Heisman runner up (and he should have been the winner!). Marshall is a member of the Aztec, College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.  

#6. Oklahoma (1996)

The second game of a home-and-home with Oklahoma matched the Aztecs and Sooners in the third week of the season. The Aztecs scored on offense and defense. Billy Blanton threw five touchdown passes (3 to Az Hakim, 2 to Leandrew Childs) and Ricky Parker, who set the Aztec record for interception yardage (146) the previous year in Norman, scored on a 60-yard pick six. He still holds the Aztec career record for interception return yards with 355. Final: Aztecs 51, Oklahoma 31.

#5 Navy (2010)

Bowling for the first time in 12 seasons, and looking for their first bowl win in 41, Brady Hoke’s second Aztec team earned a spot in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl with an 8-4 record. The first half was close after Navy scored with :07 left to cut the Aztecs’ lead to 21-14. Ronnie Hillman scored two second half TDs – a 15 yard pass from Ryan Lindley and a 1 yard run – and the Aztec D shut the Midshipmen out to give the Aztecs a 35-14 win. Ronnie rushed for 228 yards and was named offensive MVP of the game. 

#4. Boise State (2013)

Most of the Mountain West seems to be flummoxed by the Boise State’s reputation and their weird field. But not the Aztecs. A year after beating the Broncos in Boise in 2012, the Aztecs went for two in a row, this time on green grass, as the football gods intended. With the Broncos up 28-21 with 4:04 left, Tim Vizzi returned a Bronco punt 41 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. The Broncos got the ball first in overtime and were held to a field goal. Aztec ball. Quinn Kaehler’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Colin Lockett ended the game. Final score: Aztecs 34, Boise St. 31. Colin’s catch was the perfect bookend to the 2012-13 Boise State games: in 2012 he returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. For good measure, the Aztecs went to Boise to play Buffalo in the 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. A 49-24 win. That gave the Aztecs 3 wins versus or in Boise in two seasons.

#3. Air Force (2015)

Rocky Long’s 2015 Aztecs ran the MW table with a perfect 8-0 record and earned the right to host the Mountain West Championship Game. Freshman QB Christian Chapman, in his first career start, was 9-14 for 203 yards and a touchdown pass to RB Donnel Pumphrey, who also rushed for 90 yards. Donny Hageman’s 46-yard field goal with 5:10 left gave the Aztecs a 3-point lead. Final score: Aztecs 27, Air Force 24. It was the first of back-to-back MW Championships.

#2. Cal (2016)

Records broken, winning streaks begun. Donnel Pumphrey rushed for a career-high 281 yards and broke Marshall Faulk’s Aztec career rushing record. Rashaad Penny returned a Cal kickoff 100 yards for his fourth career kickoff return TD, breaking Colin Lockett’s Aztec record. And they didn’t stop there: DJ finished his career as the all-time NCAA rusher with 6,405 yards. Rashaad returned three more kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns, tying the NCAA record for career kickoffs returned for touchdowns (7) and all kicks (8). The 45-40 victory over the Golden Bears was sealed with a Damontae Kazee interception with less than a minute to play. Since that game in 2016, the Aztecs are 7-2 vs. the PAC-12. DJ finished the season with 2,133 yards and Rashaad with 1,018, making the 2016 Aztecs the only team in NCAA history with a 2,000- and 1,000-yard rusher.

#1. Stanford (2017)

Ranked power 5 opponent. Brother vs. brother. Blackout. Last-minute win. Fans rushing the field. The Aztec-Stanford game featured everything an Aztec fan could ask for. The Cardinal came to town ranked #19, 1-1 and looking for their first win in the United States (they opened with a win 62-7 win over Rice in Sydney, Australia). The game was close, with neither team leading by more than four points. Aztec receiver Mikah Holder and his twin, Cardinal DB Alijah faced off for the only time in college, with family bragging rights for life on the line. Down 17-13 with 6:15 left, the Aztecs started their game-winning drive on their own 25. Five plays later, the Aztecs had moved to the Cardinal 42. And then the lights went out. For 22 minutes. Momentum killer? Hardly. Rashaad Penny carried three times for 11 yards and Christian Chapman completed all three of his passes; the final one a perfectly executed play action where the linebacker bit on a fake to Penny, leaving TE David Wells open. He made the catch and dove into the end zone for the final score of the game with :54 left. Kameron Kelly’s interception on the final Stanford drive sealed the W: Aztecs 20, Stanford 17. Fans had been gathering around the edge of the Plaza and Field levels, and once the game ended, they rushed the field for the only time in 53 seasons at the stadium.


There were other great wins, including Miami, Wisconsin, Arizona State, the first win over Florida State, closing out the Q with wins over long-time rivals Fresno State and BYU. But these are my favorite 10. My Dad may not have wanted to pick a favorite, but I’m not a bit hesitant. Whether or it’s recency bias or not, the 2017 Stanford game is my favorite win at the old stadium. What’s yours?

Snapdragon Stadium: Where Aztecs Family Legacy Calls Home

This past Saturday marked the first live event ever to have taken place at the newly completed Snapdragon Stadium. SDSU’s second major sports & entertainment facility is officially an on campus stadium, however the surrounding expansion research campus may take some time to fill in. Until then, Sons of Montezuma took the opportunity to document the new stadium grounds with our first tailgate and the insides of the general admission and field club levels.

Finishing on time and under budget were not the first two conclusions some San Diego residents believed would be the fate of the SDSU West plan. A city full of pro sports agony in terms of ownership relations with our political system, had taken it’s toll on the psyche of America’s finest city.

After seeing for ourselves the fullness of the Friends of SDSU’s vision come to life in this opening scrimmage, we are sure glad not everyone fed into this woe is me mentality. And certainly YOU, the fan, the San Diego City voter did not as well.

So what are the coolest features of this new Snapdragon Stadium?

Inside, some features that you must experience are The Piers.

Taking the stairs up on the south endzone you can get an unbelievable view hanging over the field just enough where you feel you are out in OB looking over Sunset Cliffs. Some are even beginning to rename the Piers to the “Diving Board” given the slight bounce that you feel when someone jumps up & down on the structure. Maybe not the best feeling for everyone but it is slight and adds to the excitement of the experience.

Next up would be the Field Club Team Entrance. Now this was by far the coolest feature. The field club is exactly what it says—Field Club ticket access. So this is a premium experience. We were fortunate to have this access for the first scrimmage game and it is worth the price of admission.

Watching the team uncaged from their players locker room to walk out in the middle of the club lounge and onto the 50 yard line of Bashor Field is incredibly exciting stuff. The sights and sounds of the energy builds up between you and the players ready to run out. We can’t imagine that first night game when certainly lights and effects will come in to add to the experience. A great idea would be to have camera’s inside for this moment to share on the big screens for all the fans to watch from their seats. But if that doesn’t happen, the field club level is the place to be and buy into.

Take a brief look at some of the general highlights of our Snapdragon Stadium visit all though the lends of riding a mobility scooter. It was a great way to get around the stadium quickly and all the staff was very nice and courteous.

For over 50 years SDSU had been a tenant of the City of San Diego owned San Diego Stadium (Jack Murphy, Qualcomm, SDCCU). For the beginning of that half century time period San Diego County witnessed all the highs and lows of an Aztecs football program could have.

Aztecs fans during all this time, had witnessed the high flying offenses led by Don Air Coryell with a bevy of future NFL Hall of Fame coaches & players, to the majestic Marshall Faulk taking the college football world by storm, and lastly the unprecedented Rocky Long regime led by some incredible defenses and Donnel Pumphrey shredding the NCAA record books.

One man was able to see up to 788 of these games through SDSU history, some even predating the old San Diego Stadium, back to Aztec Bowl and Balboa Stadium. That man was the late great Tom Ables.

The Sons of Montezuma are honored to have on board one of Tom’s sons, Ken Ables as one of our article contributors to our SoM team. Ken who was often by his father’s side, was there for so many games with the family and can clearly recount his earliest games of the Aztecs back in the silver helmet & pants days.

Last season we sat down with Ken to record our SDSU Football history podcast episode. The Able’s family tradition of SDSU football has been collected and published in the form of the ‘GO AZTECS’ book now available on Amazon and other retailers.

Ken was able to share a few words on what this new stadium means to him now that the memories live on with him and his family. NBC 7 San Diego’s Joe Little caught up with Ken just before the scrimmage day.

Walking around Snapdragon for the scrimmage, you definitely could get a sense of the family atmosphere all around. Friendly faces smiling and taking it all in. For the Ables family their father Tom’s old seats still remain on the concourses as a reminder and celebration of what and who was once here before us—cheering on our Aztecs.

There’s a San Diego State football legacy there for all to see and embrace. And perhaps for some other young boy or girl, the beginnings of their own family’s Aztec football legacy.

BOOM Lakalaka! SDSU linebacker Seyddrick Lakalaka signs NIL deal with Sons of Montezuma

Tuesday morning July 19, the Sons of Montezuma announced the signing of Seyddrick Lakalaka as the fourth SDSU football student-athlete to join our NIL Team for this 2022 year. The super-senior linebacker, Seyddrick was excited to put pen to paper for his agreement with SoM.

The agreement with Lakalaka will create his official #43 jersey T-shirt and other merchandise items. The ‘Boom Lakalaka’ T-shirt just may be the most appealing in our NIL collection thus far. We like to give full credit to Seyddrick himself who had a huge influence on his design. The jersey numbers front and back feature a custom tribal pattern that signifies Lakalaka’s roots & culture.

Oh I love it, i love it. It’s looking nice, it’s looking fresh. It’s a mixture of my culture. I’m Tongan, Samoan and Hawaiian. I wanted to implement it onto my shirt. To show who I am and where I come from.” says Lakalaka when asked about his design choice.

Seyddrick who calls Kalihi, Hawaii his hometown, is coming into this 2022 season with a lot of veteran leadership. Having played in 14 games last season and starting in 5, he had 44 tackles (21 solo), including 4.5 tackles for loss, a 14-yard interception return and two quarterback hurries. Seyddrick is no doubt looking to build further upon last years performance.

I play with a lot of toughness, how Aztecs warriors are supposed to be—how they’re supposed to play, and what is expected from my teammates and the coaches—(to play) tough, fast and smart. This years going to be a big year for us—myself and the football team.”

When asked about his signature nickname indicated on the front side of the shirt, Seyddrick gives credit to special teams coach Doug Deakin for that big of marketing genius. “Boom is a nickname Coach Deak gave to me on the football field. It also goes with my last name as well— Boom-Lakalaka.

The Lakalaka name runs strong in San Diego, California. Seyddrick is also the younger brother of Aztec4Life SDSU linebacker Ronley Lakalaka (2015-2018). Look for more coming soon on Seyddrick’s Sons of Montezuma Podcast episode next week.

The official Seyddrick Lakalaka #43 T-shirt features both a standard next level T-shirt unisex style, as well as a crop top style T-shirt for the ladies. Both shirts are soft 100% combed ringspun cotton and retail for $30 in the next level style and $28 for the crop top. Both are sold exclusively at sonsofmontezuma.com/shop and you can purchase both men’s and women’s styles right here below!

An All-Time Aztec? Willie Steele Jumps to the top of a long List

Message boards and Twitter threads have replaced the water cooler as the forum for discussing and arguing sports today. Boomers and millennials, each sure their generation’s athletes are the best, try to convince the others that their contemporaries are superior, with little luck in changing anyone’s mind.

While comparing generations in basketball, football or baseball are all subject to personal bias, some sports, like track and field or swimming are easy to decide: the fastest or highest or longest is the best, regardless of when it happened.

A great example – and one with an Aztec angle – is the men’s long jump. The 2022 NCAA champ in the men’s long jump is Wayne Pinnock from Tennessee, with a winning jump of 26’3” on June 8. Congratulations.

So why are we talking about an athlete from another school in a sport in which San Diego State doesn’t even field a team? Because of a great Aztec athlete whose name you may or may not know. If you don’t, you really should if you consider yourself an Aztec fan.


San Diego State’s Willie Steele. San Diego Hall of Champions

Willie Steele, a long jumper on the Aztec track and field team was the first world-class athlete from San Diego State. Willie was also the first Aztec to win a D-1 individual national championship with a winning jump of 26’6”. In 1947. 

Willie Steele (Getty Images).

Let that sink in. The winning long jump (known then as the broad jump) from 75 years ago would have won the 2022 NCAA title by 3 inches. 75 YEARS!

Willie was also the 1947 National AAU champion and won the gold medal at the London Olympics in 1948. Interestingly, neither of those jumps were farther than 26’6”. 

Able’s family collection

Willie’s jumping ability also had a direct impact on the Ables family. My Dad Tom, just out of the Navy, was a freshman at State and sports editor of the Aztec (before it became a daily) for the 1946-47 school year. The school had a general PR guy, but no one dedicated to sports publicity or information.

With Willie and javelin thrower Bill Morales both qualifying for the NCAA finals, the athletic department determined that a dedicated sports publicity director was needed. Since he was the sports editor, Tom was asked first. He accepted immediately, and it launched a 70 year career in marketing and publicity, and a love of Aztec sports.

Tom, Willie and Bill, along with head coach Choc Sportsman and athletic director Bill Terry drove to the finals at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Here’s how Tom described Willie’s winning jump in the foreword to his book GO AZTECS!

“At the meet, Willie was absolutely incredible! I happened to be down on the field at the time. His winning jump of 26’6” just barely missed Jesse Owens’ world record at the time, 26’8¼”.

“I remember standing there watching Willie as he jumped several inches back on the board to make sure he did not foul. From toe to landing, he had to have flown at least 26’9”. And the world record would have come back with him to little San Diego State College!”

Hail Montezuma! (hailmontezuma.sdsu.edu)

With all that jumping talent one might think that Willie would concentrate only on track and field. Nope. Other Aztec teams needed Willie and he was happy to oblige. He played basketball, jumping center at 6’1”, and first base on the baseball team.

He gave football a try, but was injured in a scrimmage and never got in a game. Tom, who had seen thousands of Aztecs compete in nearly every sport SDSU sponsors (and some it no longer does) said Willie was the greatest pure Aztec athlete he had ever seen.

Willie defended his NCAA title in 1948. Other championships include the 1948 Olympic trials and Olympics, 1946 and 1947 AAU. 

Willie is a member of the inaugural class of the Aztec Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Hall of Champions in San Diego. After track, Willie spent most of his working career in Oakland as a director in the parks department. He passed away at age 66 in 1989.

Track and Field is one of the most successful programs in SDSU athletics history, with numerous national champions and Olympic medalists for both Aztec men and women, including Arnie Robinson, Whitney Ashley, Bob Smith, Shanieka Thomas Ricketts and many others. And, of course, Willie Steele.

The Aztec women’s team has won the last two Mountain West outdoor championships, four of the past five, and have sent athletes to 24 of the past 25 NCAA Outdoor Championships, including the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams this year. 

But there’s no men’s team, and that’s a shame. One of SDSU’s most successful programs was discontinued 30 years ago. And it’s also personal to the Ables family. Not only did the program launch my Dad’s career (which I continue, along with my son), I was a member of the 1976 and 1977 men’s track team as a discus and hammer thrower, and my cousin Mark was a hurdler on the 1972-75 teams.

GO AZTECS! – and bring back Men’s Track!

Watch below for the first of our All-Time Aztecs Basketball player list, Milton “Milky” Phelps.

SDSU’s Jesse Matthews Becomes Newest Member of the Sons of Monty NIL Team

It is with our most excitement today to reveal the Sons of Montezuma NIL Team’s newest member, Aztecs standout wide receiver Jesse Matthews. We are pleased to make this announcement that’s been a few weeks in the making with Jesse.

The senior Matthews has been a tremendous example of a student athlete both on and off the field since taking his chance to be a member of this SDSU football program as a walk-on. His story is one that sonsofmontezuma.com cannot wait to share with the sports world. A local footballer with family ties to the great game at the highest of levels, Jesse has agreed to share his story with us–his way and we couldn’t be happier to do so.

Weeks ago while meeting with Jesse on campus to go over the final details of our agreement, we got the chance to briefly get to know the young Aztecs player and we can sense the excitement he had for Sons of Montezuma.

“I’ve already got a Sons of Montezuma flag in our house on campus” Matthew noted. “It’s Connor’s and we have it hanging up.” (referencing fellow teammate SDSU tight end Connor McBride).

Jesse’s highlights from the time he arrived on Montezuma Mesa have been nothing short of spectacular. Whether catching the ball or even throwing the ball, this 2021 season alone found Jesse on our Top-12 plays of 2021 more times than we can remember.

Now according to our agreement with Jesse, he will have much more than just a flag. Sons of Montezuma has agreed to not only hold the exclusive rights to Jesse Matthews podcast appearances, but also the custom merchandise items of both his #45 Jersey/T-shirt (available for sale this week before Spring football camp), as well as a second apparel item soon to come in the summer.

With this being the 100th team in SDSU Aztecs football history and moving into the new Snapdragon Stadium, the good fortunes of all Jessie’s hard work have come to this season. As the weeks go on and we develop our branding for Jesse, stay tuned to all we put together for him. This week Jesse will make his Sons of Montezuma Podcast debut with the guys, so be sure to subscribe today!

Saturdays Are For the Sons: Caden & Cooper McDonald—Brothers in Blood, Football and Business

Earlier this week it was the Sons of Montezuma’s absolute pleasure when both Caden & Cooper McDonald put pen to paper and immediately became the 3rd & 4th members to our Sons of Monty N.I.L. Team.

Caden, the super senior linebacker and team captain, returns to SDSU to open up a soon to be San Diego landmark at Snapdragon Stadium (which coincidentally just got the green light to complete its final sale of a sliver of land to build out the rest of the development). But more importantly to #54, is to conquer the Mountain West Conference and tackle the program’s elusive 22nd football championship.

The motivation to be a champion undoubtedly drives this competitor. But the prospects of returning for an extra season and accomplish his goals just got sweeter in the off season. Not that an NIL partnership agreement with the Boot Barn wasn’t enticing enough of course.

With younger brother and fellow linebacker Cooper deciding to enter the transfer portal after attending the University of Washington, the writing was on the wall and all the makings of a brotherly reunion in San Diego seemed highly likely.

And so it came to pass that Cooper McDonald did indeed pack his bags and headed out of the Pacific Northwest, down the trail to Sunny San Diego, and became a prized addition to the vaunted Aztecs defense.

Sons of Montezuma knew immediately that we wanted the McDonald brothers on our team! With 2021 being the first season of legally permissible NIL agreements with student athletes, Sons of Montezuma had an overwhelmingly positive experience working with SDSU stand out players Greg Bell and Matt Araiza.

Signing Caden & Cooper to this 2022 Sons of Monty Team is a huge deal for us. To represent a family this way is an ultimate honor. The greatest aspect of College football that makes it better than almost any other form of the game, IS the close knit family aspect.

Everyone wants the NFL dream of playing at the highest level of your position. But often times the business and harsh realities of the league, don’t always shine the brightest of lights on a footballers time in the machine. These signings helped fulfill one of the most important visions for the SOM brand.

https://sonsofmontezuma.com/shop/

Our desire is not only to be a hub of information for SDSU Alumni and fans, or just to create fun experiences and unique products. But Sons of Montezuma seeks to create opportunities and an outlet that bridges the gap between the Aztecs men who put on the greatest football helmet in all of Collegiate Sports and their faithful family & friends they call, Aztecs4Life.

The Specifics

Our partnership agreement with Caden & Cooper provides them each with their own Shersey (T-shirt/Jersey) with the Sons of Montezuma brand name on the front chest, their official number front and back, and most importantly their proud McDonald last name big and bold on the backside for all to see.

Artistic renderings are still pending final sign off by the McDonald duo and the release date will be officially announced at a later time. But for a glimpse of what this style will reflect, look no further than our Sons of Montezuma Official Matt Araiza t-shirt, still for sale now in our online shop!

Also included is a separate t-shirt style that will feature both McDonald brothers on the front in an illustration style with much more creativity and fun for those fans that want something more unique.

Lastly, we look forward to featuring exclusive interviews with both Caden & Cooper McDonald on the original and longest tenured Aztecs football podcast show, the Sons of Montezuma Podcast.

We thank Caden & Cooper McDonald for seeing this vision and partnering with Sons of Montezuma. And we look forward to many more collaborations and partnerships with more Aztecs footballers this 100th season of SDSU football.

Listen below for the latest episode of the Sons of Montezuma Podcast featuring San Diego high school recruiting tracker Ruben Peña Sr of SDFNL. Also our resident coach, former SDSU assistant Coach C gives his full QB transfer Braxton Burmeister scouting report. Listen & Subscribe today!

The Aztecs Finished Their First D1 Season Perfect at 11-0

By Ken Ables (@ka619sd)

No Aztec fan is happy with Saturday’s results. The team worked too hard to have the regular season end that way. But that final result should not detract from the fact that the Aztecs are 11-2, headed to their 11th bowl in the past 12 seasons and have the program’s first ever national award recipient: Ray Guy Award winning punter – and first team All American – Matt Araiza.

Four other Aztec teams have won 11 games, but all of them won #11 in their bowl. The 2021 squad is the first Aztec team to win 11 in the regular season. 1969 was the Aztecs’ first season in D1, and it was a memorable one.

What a start!

Led by Head Coach Don Coryell and QB Dennis Shaw, the Aztecs finished their first regular season in D1 a perfect 10-0 and champion of the newly formed PCAA (12th conference championship). Their reward: a date in the Pasadena Bowl with Boston University.

Dennis Shaw and Aztecs offense – Photo by Ernie Anderson

The Terriers scored first and led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. But after that it was all Aztecs. 

WR John Featherstone, filling in for injured Tom Reynolds, caught two touchdown passes: 34 yards from Shaw, and 57 yards from Brian Sipe. The Aztecs also scored on two rushing touchdowns, including one by Sipe. Final: Aztecs 28, Terriers 7. Featherstone was named Player of the game. Attendance: 41,276 – overwhelmingly Aztec fans, including me.

John Featherstone – Photo by Ernie Anderson
Punt Block by Lon Woodard – Photo by Ernie Anderson

With the Pasadena Bowl victory, the 1969 Aztecs finished the season 11-0 for the second time in four seasons. The 11 wins were part of the 55-1-1 record that stretched from 1965 to 1970.

The game featured two players who would excel the next season in the NFL. Aztec QB Dennis Shaw was named 1970 Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Bills; Boston U. DB Bruce Taylor was the Defensive Rookie of the year with the 49ers.

It was a great Aztec team that included four All Americans, 11 All-PCAA that year, 12 NFL draft picks, NCAA record holders and leasers, as well as future members of the Aztec and College Football Halls of Fame, an NFL MVP and a famous Hollywood boxer. Who were these great Aztecs?

All Americans (4) – Henry Allison, 1st team (1970), Tim Delaney 3rd, HM (1970-71), Brian Sipe HM (1970-71), Leon Van Gorkum HM (1970)

Tim Delaney – Photo by Ernie Anderson

1969 All-PCAA (11) – Tim Burnett DL, Tim Delaney TE, Lee Felice OT, Billie Hayes DB, Bill Pierson C, Tom Reynolds WR, Dennis Shaw QB, Tom Shellabarger OT, Bill Van Leeuwen DL, Carl Weathers LB, Lon Woodard DL.

Tim Burnett – Photo by Ernie Anderson

Drafted by NFL (12) – Dennis Shaw QB (Bills), Billie Hayes DB (Bengals), Lon Woodard DE (Saints), Bill Pierson C (Jets), Ken Burrow WR (Falcons), Henry Allison G (Eagles), Tom Shellabarger T (Eagles), Tom Hayes DB (Falcons), Leon Van Gorkum DE (Chargers), Lindsey James RB (Falcons), Tom Reynolds WR (Patriots), Brian Sipe QB (Browns).

Billie Hayes – Photo by Ernie Anderson

Aztec Hall of Fame (7) – Don Coryell, Dennis Shaw, Brian Sipe, Tim Delaney, Tom Reynolds, Henry Allison, Claude Gilbert.

NFL Honors – Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dennis Shaw, Bills (1970); MVP: Brian Sipe QB, Browns (1980).

College Football Hall of Fame – Don Coryell, Head Coach

And who was that Hollywood boxer? None other than Aztec LB Carl Weathers who later gained fame as Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies.

Air Coryell at its finest

Under Don Coryell’s sophisticated passing offense, the Aztecs set several NCAA records that season, including 6 TD catches in a game by Tim Delaney, 7 TD passes in a half by Dennis Shaw and 10 team TD passes (all vs. New Mexico State). Tom Reynolds set the NCAA record with 18 TD receptions. The 1969 Aztecs were national leaders in several categories:

  • Team total offense, avg. per game: 532.2 yards
  • Team passing offense, avg. per game: 374.2 yards
  • Team scoring offense, avg. per game: 46.4 points
  • Total offense: Dennis Shaw, 3,197 yards
  • Passing efficiency: Dennis Shaw, 162.2 points

Two members of the 1969 team were national leaders in 1971. QB Brian Sipe completed 17.8 passes per game and WR Tom Reynolds led receivers with 1,070 yards.

The Aztecs continued their winning streak through the first nine games of the 1970 season. I can’t think of another team that started out in Division 1 with a 20-0 record. With a win in the Frisco Bowl, the 2021 Aztecs will become the first team in program history to win 12 games in one season.

GO AZTECS!

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One More Game to #Win22

By Ken Ables (@ka619sd)

13-2

2-0

0-1

22

What are all these numbers? They may seem like an assortment random digits, but they are very pertinent to Saturday’s Mountain West Championship game between San Diego State and Utah State. Here’s what they all mean:

13-2: The Aztecs’ record vs. the Aggies in a series that dates back to 1947, a 24-19 Aztec win. Another way to look at it: Utah State is 2-13 vs. San Diego State.

2-0: San Diego State’s record in Mountain West Championship Games. No other team has multiple wins with no losses. And no other team has won back-to-back championship games.

0-1: Utah State’s record in Mountain West Championship games. They are one of four teams that have played in, yet never won a Mountain West Championship game. The played in the first game and hadn’t been back until this year.

22: As in Win 22, or #Win22. Aztec fans know the team is playing to win their 22nd conference championship. This is the 99th season of Aztec football, and the 95th as a member of a conference. That would make the Aztecs conference champions in nearly one out of every four seasons.

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If the past is any indication, odds favor a 12th Aztec win on Saturday. And that would put the Aztecs in uncharted territory. Five Aztec teams have won 11 games, and the 2021 team is the first team to do so in the regular season. Don Coryell’s 1966 and 1969 teams both finished 11-0; Rocky Long’s 2015 and 2016 teams finished 11-3. All four all won #11 in their bowl games.

Utah State Series

Following that first game in Logan, the Aztecs and Utah State played their next four games in San Diego. After an Aztec win in 1948, the teams did not play again until 1967 in the final home game of the first season played in San Diego Stadium. I was at that game and remember some questionable calls at the end that led to a 31-25 Aggie win. That was the lone loss in a 55-1-1 record that spanned 1965 to 1970. The Aztecs are 11-1 vs. the Aggies since, including a 38-7 win in Logan last year. San Diego State and Utah State were never conference mates until the Aggies joined the MW in 2015.

My Dad, Tom Ables, was at that first SDSU-USU game in 1947 and for the 2016 game 69 seasons later (a 40-13 Aztec win that included 400 rushing yards, 223 by DJ Pumphrey). At age 90 he stood on the sidelines in a driving rainstorm for the entire game. Why? Because we stood on the sidelines for road games. Weather was never a factor.

Tom Ables at Utah State 2016

I always think of that game (and the game at Boise in 2014 when it was 5 degrees at kickoff) when people 50 years younger than he was complain about the drive to Carson being too hard or too far, or thinking the games should have been played at a JC or USD. I’m convinced that the same people complaining about Carson would be griping about having to sit on concrete bleachers at Southwestern College.

2016 DJ Pumphrey vs Utah State (Ernie Anderson)
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Mountain West Conference Championships

Saturday will be the second MW Championship game hosted by San Diego State. Air Force was the Mountain Division opponent in the Aztecs’ first MWCCG, played in 2015. It was a back and forth game that was tied 24-24 late in the fourth quarter. Donny Hageman kicked a 46-yard field goal with 5:10 left to give the Aztecs a 27-24 lead.

2015 Donny Hageman Field Goal vs Air Force (Ernie Anderson)

That game finished much like many games did this year: with defense. After the field goal, the Aztecs held the Falcons to a three-and-out. The Aztecs got the ball back with 3:16, looking to run out the clock. After six plays the Aztecs punted and the Falcons took over at their own 22. The run-dependent Falcons were forced to pass and made it to mid-field. The Aztec D held as time ran out. The 27-24 score held. Won 20.

2015 MW Champs (Ernie Anderson)

The Aztecs were back in the conference championship again in 2016, but did not host. For the second time in 15 days, the Aztecs were playing football in Laramie, Wyoming. Led by QB Josh Allen (now with the Buffalo Bills), the Cowboys shot out to a 10-0 lead. After four consecutive Aztec scores, featuring a touchdown by DJ Pumphrey and two by Rashaad Penny, plus a John Baron field goal, the Aztecs built a 24-10 lead through three quarters.

Kyle Kelley Sack vs Wyoming (Ernie Anderson)

In the fourth, Wyoming scored two touchdowns that sandwiched another Baron field goal. The Cowboys got the ball back with 1:00 left in the game. After three Allen incompletions and a holding call, the Pokes faced fourth and 20 from their own 14. Kyle Kelley sacked Allen for a 5 yard loss. Aztec ball. Victory formation. Final score: 27-24, Aztecs. Won 21.

2016 MW Champs (Ernie Anderson)

So what will happen Saturday? I’ll go with tradition: Aztecs 27, Aggies 24.

Kickoff is at noon Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park. Every Aztec fan who can make it should be in Carson. If you can’t, watch it on Fox or listen to Ted Leitner and Rich Ohrnberger on 1360. And be sure to watch Aztec basketball take on Michigan at 10:00 AM. That game is on CBS and 1360.

Listen to this weeks Championship Game Podcast previewing SDSU vs Utah State with a special guest interview with Aztecs football legend, JR Tolver.

Huge Holiday Week preps SDSU Programs for Spotlight Saturday

SDSU’s massive three-game Thanksgiving and Black Friday slate was just the start of the Aztec’s huge lineup of matchups. Now that the Georgetown, Boise State, and USC games are in the past, the football and basketball teams must use those to build on their success and learn from their failures for an even larger set of appearances in the national spotlight.

SDSU basketball travels to Ann Arbor to face the #20 Michigan Wolverines, marking the first meeting between the programs. That matchup will be broadcast nationally on CBS at 10 am. Only two hours later at 12 pm, the Aztec football team will be playing on FOX when they host Utah State for the Mountain West Championship.

These are extremely attractive matchups and are guaranteed to pull well over a million viewers each. With both games being broadcast nationally on the same day, Aztec victories can earn the athletic department a lot of respect in the eyes of a national audience.

SDSU football has a chance to play in three straight nationally televised games: Boise St. 11/26 CBS, Utah St. 12/4 FOX, and possibly in the LA Bowl 12/18 ABC.

To start off the school’s massive three-game stretch, basketball opened play in the Wooden Legacy holiday basketball tournament on Thanksgiving night. Brian Dutcher and staff led the squad into battle with Georgetown and their NBA-legend / Monstar head coach, Patrick Ewing.

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The Tecs were tested early and it was a great game through three quarters. However, Keshad Johnson gave new life to the team with a windmill dunk that should have made Sports Center Top-10. The thunderous slam totally altered the game.

After that, they convincingly pulled away from the Hoyas, allowing just 3 points in the final 9.5 minutes. Shout out to my friend Kate, who is earning a Master’s at Georgetown Law in Washington D.C. She found it to be a criminal offense to bet against the Aztecs. SDSU locked up Georgetown 73-56 for their sixth straight win over a Big East opponent.

The main event of the weekend took place on Black Friday when SDSU faced Boise State in a win-or-go-home game, in which an Aztec victory would mean a birth in the Mountain West Championship game. In the early hours of the morning, Aztec fans weren’t shopping. Instead, they were tailgating in the Dignity Health Sports Park parking lot with Irish Coffee and breakfast burritos.

A 9 am kickoff two hours away from campus was controversial, but the Aztec faithful who came, and the million(s) watching at home, were treated with quite a show. The Broncos were up 16-3 early. It was easy to count the Aztecs out since their offense that runs the ball and controls the clock isn’t designed to come from behind.

However, after a change at the quarterback position, Jordan Brookshire led the team to a 27-16 victory. It was an impressive offensive display and the defense did its thing once more, not allowing any second-half points.

While SDSU won the first 2 of 3 games in 24 hours, the fun ended when Aztec MBB faced #24 ranked USC in the Wooden Legacy championship game. It did not go their way to say the least. Shots would not fall in a way that was very similar to the Syracuse game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year.

The first Aztec 3-pointer was made with fifteen minutes to go in the second half. The team’s leading scorer this season, Matt Bradley, had zero points until there was one minute remaining in the game. It was ugly to watch and the team must hit the practice courts hard.

They expect to be a tournament team again but desperately need to iron out their offensive play. The Trojans played sloppy too but were able to play solid defense and out-rebound SDSU, which led to many second-chance points and a 58-43 victory over the Aztecs.

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That was SDSU’s first loss to a ranked opponent since #1 Duke defeated them in 2018 and first loss to a California school when Fresno downed them later that same season. As much as we despise losing to a Pac-12 school in Southern California, there are bigger fish to fry next week.

To start off Saturday, December 4th, we get treated to an unusual game that Brian Dutcher was able to schedule with his former team, Michigan. At Michigan, Brian Dutcher was Assistant to his predecessor Steve Fisher, who took the reigns of the 1989 Wolverines in the NCAA tournament and eventually won the national title.

Dutcher was a crucial piece to Michigan’s Fab Five teams and their additional two Final Four victories and NCAA championship appearances in 1992 and 1993, which were eventually vacated for members of the team violating NCAA rules.

Of course, those events led to the firing of Steve Fisher at UM and the eventual turnaround of SDSU basketball when Fisher accepted the role of head coach on the Mesa. He asked Dutcher to come with him to San Diego and the rest was history. Dutcher still maintains a good relationship with members of that legendary team, one of which is current Michigan head coach, Juwan Howard.

The Wolverines were ranked as high as #4 this season but after two losses to Seton Hall and Arizona, they’ve dropped down to #20. Before their game with the Aztecs, the Wolverines travel to North Carolina to face the blue-blood Tarheels. Regardless of that outcome, SDSU gets a chance to take down a ranked team Saturday on big boy CBS.

The most important SDSU game of the year will take place later that day in Carson when they face Utah State in the MWC Championship game on FOX. This will be the 12th and final game that the Aztecs play at Dignity Health Sports Park before moving to Aztec Stadium in San Diego next season.

In my eyes, Utah State owes all their glory to the schedule they played—or didn’t play. The Aggies were fortunate enough to not have to face the top three teams in the West Division during their regular season. Boise played all three teams and Air Force played two. Regardless, USU gets to travel out West next week and face an elite defense. SDSU’s chance to #Win22 is here.

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