I’m in a unique position this week.
Weber State’s football team visits San Diego State in each team’s season opener.
I work at the Standard-Examiner, which has a rich history and tradition of covering Weber State like no other outlet in Utah (Brett Hein is your go-to person for WSU coverage these days and there’s no one who comes close to what he does).
I’m also a graduate of San Diego State and, since I graduated in 2015, quite the religious watcher of SDSU football and other sports.
For starters, here’s some advice for those going to the game who happen to be reading this article. Order the fish tacos at Oscar’s Mexican Seafood in Pacific Beach on Emerald Street, right next to the beach. They’ll change your life.
Also, spend some time at said beach. That will change your life, too.
This game will likely have the highest home attendance of an SDSU home game all season because of an extremely loud and Earth-shattering postgame fireworks show.
It’s truly an odd site to sit in SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm Stadium, formerly Jack Murphy Stadium, but always a hunk of concrete in the middle of a massive parking lot that looks like Meteor Crater in Arizona) and watch the stands fill up late in the third quarter of people who could care less about the football being played.
Why I’m writing this column is because, as an SDSU graduate, follower and former football beat reporter for the student newspaper, this game kind of scares me.
Weber State is trending up and the Wildcats might not be in a better position to beat an FBS team than they are this year.
SDSU is obviously an FBS school and as such is favored to win; however:
I’m more concerned with the Weber State game than I am with games against UCLA, New Mexico State, Wyoming and San Jose State, and maybe UNLV too.
It’s not only because of Weber State’s recent pedigree and optimism that the ‘Cats can knock off an FBS school.
Our story begins in the summer of 2013 when I was preparing to attend San Diego State as a junior college transfer student.
I’d made a solo trip to SDSU earlier that year for new student orientation.
It was there during a breakout session with Nicole Vargas, then the internship coordinator for the school’s journalism program, that I met my friend Jack Haworth.
Jack and I ended up co-hosting a radio show with for the next two years on KCR College Radio, the student-run, on-campus station. Jack’s a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. I’m a San Francisco Giants fan.
I’d had a nasty accident about two weeks earlier, so I had a huge scar right between my eyebrows and my face was bruised under both eyes. My student ID photo looked like, and still looks like, a jail mugshot photo, and somehow that didn’t deter Jack from talking to me like I was a totally normal human being. I was a mess.
Anyway, back to football.
When I eventually moved into the transfer dorms later in August, Jack and I met up on campus where the school was hosting this big, new-student welcome party at night. There, we made plans to go to the first football game on Aug. 31 against Eastern Illinois.
We took the light rail (called the trolley) to the stadium with my roommate, Mickey.
Three hours into said football game, EIU led 26-19 going into the fourth quarter. The Panthers had this quarterback who was kicking SDSU’s butt.
His name: Jimmy Garoppolo. You may have heard of him. He’s in the second year of a five-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers that pays him ... $137 million.
Long story short, Garoppolo throws for 361 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. SDSU’s quarterback, Adam Dingwell, throws four picks and gets benched the following week against Ohio State and doesn’t return to the starting lineup.
Jack and I, sitting behind the east end zone as EIU takes a 40-19 lead, look at each other and wonder something along the lines of, ‘What the heck kind of college experience did we just waltz into?’
We were the type of sports fans to stay throughout the entirety of the game, but with something like three minutes left, we said to heck with it and took off, along with the rest of the SDSU fans.
My point with that long-winded anecdote: SDSU struggles with FCS teams already. Weber State is a legitimately good FCS team and the Wildcats have been close to notching an FBS win lately.
If WSU does what I think the Wildcats can do, and that is give SDSU a legitimate run for its money, then we might have something play out like either 2013, 2015 and 2018.
There’s the EIU loss in 2013. In 2014, the Aztecs ho-hum beat Northern Arizona 38-7 and looked pretty good doing it.
The next year against University of San Diego, SDSU won 37-3 by gaining 305 yards of offense, scoring one offensive touchdown, returning two of its five interceptions for touchdowns, and taking a kickoff back to the house.
But otherwise, that was not a pretty game. Heck, USD won the time of possession battle 34:39 to 25:21 and still lost by 34.
In 2016, it was a 31-0 win over New Hampshire where the Aztecs well and truly kicked some butt (they outgained NH 461-141 on offense).
The offense exploded the next year in a 38-17 win over UC Davis (513 yards, 6.8 yards per play and the defense allowed two garbage-time touchdowns).
And then there was last year. Sacramento State. The game came a week after getting waxed 31-10 at No. 13 Stanford.
SDSU trailed 14-13 going into the fourth quarter and only by the good grace of running back Juwan Washington’s three touchdowns did the Aztecs win 28-14 in another close call with an FCS team.
Couple that recent trend with the Aztecs’ puzzling, four-game losing streak to end last season and the fact they’re installing a fundamentally different offense this year, and you can color me skeptical about SDSU’s prospects Saturday.
Conversely, WSU might not be in a better position to get a statement win. SDSU is a 7.5-point favorite according to VegasInsider. In my book, either Weber State covers the spread, or the Aztecs win by 30.