Sunday, September 17, 2017

San Diego State QB Christian Chapman the Unsung Hero of the Aztecs' Stirring 20-17 Win Over #19 Stanford

San Diego State's epic 20-17 win over #19 Stanford tonight was no upset. Don't let anyone tell you it was. The opportunistic, tough-as-nails Aztecs should've been ranked higher than Stanford before tonight's kickoff. They will be now.

I've been watching Aztec football semi-religiously since I moved to San Diego 33 years ago to attend SDSU. And this was the most exciting and meaningful Aztecs game I've ever witnessed.

There were so many story lines in this game, where does one begin? The one everybody's talking about is when the stadium lights went out late in the fourth quarter just after State, trailing by four, began what would be their game-deciding drive.

When the lights went out, thousands of fans clicked on their smart phones in a new-millennium version of flicking their Bic's. It was a sight to behold, Christmas'y, almost holy. But then that isn't surprising given the fact that the game was a clash between two quarterbacks whose names are Christian and Chryst.

The blackout - which SDSU markerting guru's eerily foreshadowed when they asked Aztec fans to "black out" the stadium by wearing all black -- intensified what was already an almost immeasurably emotional, dramatic football game.

The other big story line that, really, was the elephant in the room (stadium) all night was the fact that sports fans in the city of San Diego are clamoring for something/anything to help them forget that the San Diego Chargers are gone.

Tonight's game was the perfect antidote for San Diegans who are still sick that the Bolts are now playing up in our rival city, Los Angeles.

But for diehard Aztec fans, none of that stuff mattered. The game's the thing, and this game had everything, even a near brawl between the teams as they made their way to the locker room at halftime.

The pure joy of this win for SDSU loyalists had nothing to do with that NFL team whose absence San Diegans are getting more used to by the day. This was an instant classic between two very physical, talented college football teams who each had something to prove.

The Aztecs ultimately imposed their will tonight on a good Cardinal team and let it be known that they are a force with which to be reckoned. These Aztecs fear nothing and no one. They can't be intimidated. They're undaunted. Unflappable. Hungry. Resolute. And, when it counts the most, unstoppable.

This San Diego State team will go far. Definitely a strong early candidate for one of the non-Power 5 conference slots in the college football playoff.

San Diego State is 3-0 now, and should in fact be ranked in the Top 15 after its impressive first three weeks (The Aztecs handily beat another Power 5/Pac 12 team, Arizona State, last week in Tempe).

But SDSU will be lucky to crack the Top 25 (they will, but maybe barely) because even with the proliferation of DVR's, there are still far too many clueless, myopic sportswriters in the East, South and Midwest who don't even know what an "Aztec" is.

San Diego State has the goods, folks. They could go undefeated this season. The team's deservedly best-known athlete, Rashaad Penny, is the leading rusher in the nation. And if he isn't a Heisman Trophy candidate after this game, those sportswriters I mentioned a minute ago seriously need to get a life.

But as great as Penny is, the difference in the game tonight against Stanford, as I frankly predicted he would be on this blog earlier this week, was Aztec quarterback Christian Chapman.

Chapman was this game's MVP. No question about it. He demonstrably outplayed Stanford's much more vaunted QB Chryst, who threw a game-ending pic to seal the deal for San Diego State.

Chapman showed Keller how to calmly lead a team down the field in the final minutes of a game and get the win. Trailing by four, Chapman masterfully engineered the final drive and, with 54 seconds remaining, threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Wells to take the lead for good. 

It was a very impressive grand finale' for Chapman that should erase any doubts about his talent, toughness or leadership. Chapman had Stanford's bigs in his face all night, but he remained impossibly but characteristically cool. He didn't throw a single bad pass that I can recall.

Chapman is creatively elusive in the pocket, he's got a very high football I.Q., and he's a very accurate passer. He just makes things happen on the field, positive things, and he never gets rattled. As I've been saying for a year now, Chapman is wildly underrated. But hopefully no more. Not after this star-making performance.

As San Diego State's student newspaper, The Daily Aztec, reported tonight, Chapman had this to say after the game:

“Crazy. Can’t write it any better. Lights shut off, everybody is showing their lights. The fans are going crazy. Telling our brothers, this is it, this is our drive. If we want to be something, this is what we got to do.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

San Diego State-Stanford Matchup: Who Will Win, And Why?

The 2017 San Diego State University and Stanford University football teams are twin sons of very different mothers. They're virtual clones. So much alike, in so many departments.

Granted, Stanford may have more blue chippers that were highly touted coming out of high school, but both teams have very large offensive lines, both like to run the ball (and both do it well), and both think they're tougher than every opponent they face.

This highly anticipated football game Saturday night in San Diego between the underrated Aztecs and the #19 Cardinal is all about who flinches first.

It's gonna be a dogfight. But it's in SDSU's house, where the team has won 20 of its last 23 games.

The Home Crowd Will Be Loud and Proud

More than 50,000 screaming fans are expected. Do not underestimate the power of a very large and loud home crowd.

San Diego sports fans are starving for a winner now with the Chargers now playing in Los Angeles and the Padres still talking about the future.

Yes, SDSU has been a winner for nearly the last decade. A very solid program that has won the last two Mountain West Conference Championships and appeared in seven straight bowl games.

But this game represents a real and rare opportunity for San Diego State's program to earn some long overdue national cred' and at the same time silence the myopic East Coast sportswriters who haven't a clue just how good this football team really is.

That means everyone with any San Diego State ties - and that means you if you are still reading this piece - needs to get off his or her butt, go to this game, and make some joyous noise for your school.

Close Game, For Sure

It'll be a close game. Anyone predicting a blowout, on either side, is thick.

But the Aztecs should cause more turnovers, partly because of crowd noise, but largely because of State's unspectacular but highly underrated quarterback, Christian Chapman, who makes very few mistakes. He looms large in this one, even larger than you might think.

Another plus for the San Diego State side is the team's impossibly consistent kicker, John Baron II, aka the "The Red Baron." State has suffered over the years with some really bad kickers. But Baron is the real deal, and this game could easily come down to a field goal.

Baron is clutch. SDSU could win by a foot on Saturday, and Baron could become the next San Diego State folk hero.

Run, Run, Run

As for the team's respective running games, which will be on display all night, Stanford has a very good running back in Bryce Love. He's a tremendous athlete, one of the best in the nation.

But SDSU has the best running back in the nation. Period. Rashaad Penny is a rare talent. And he is the reigning Walter Camp national offensive player of the week.

Did I mention that Stanford is surprisingly not great against the run? Penny could have a field day Saturday, an all-over-the-field day, even against Stanford's bigs.

Pass Coverage a Question Mark

SDSU’s pass defense was a bit shaky against Arizona State last week, leaving several WR's wide open. But the Sun Devils actually have more talented receivers than Stanford.

I am not for a minute disrespecting of diminishing Stanford as a football team. They are big, and tough, and talented. But so is San Diego State. And trust me, the Aztecs will not be pushed around at home. It doesn't happen.

This is gonna be an MMA battle that may devolve into an AMA battle (injuries). It will be a very, very hard-fought football game. Both sides have something to prove and both will leave it all on the field.

The 12th Man Will Be Deafening

I also think San Diego State has the most under-heralded coach in America. Rocky Long just wins, baby. He's the winningest coach in MWC history. He's a cool combination of old-school and hip.

He's tough as nails, but nonetheless very adept at effectively communicating with entitled, smart phone-addicted millennials.

But I repeat: Do not forget about the 12th man in this game. Aztec fans will be something beyond fired up for this epic matchup, and the Aztec players will feed off those fans, then feed on Stanford's players.

It's gonna be rocking at the stadium, which, by the way, should have been renamed "Aztec Stadium" before this game's kickoff.

But that's just one more ball dropped by San Diego's hapless, hopeless civic leaders.

Our prediction? SDSU 31 - Stanford 27