Aztecs Game Preview: SDSU vs UC Davis

Credit: EVT Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

UC Davis Aggies vs SDSU Aztecs

Saturday September 2, 2017

Qualcomm Stadium- 5:30 PM


On Saturday September 2nd, the San Diego State Aztecs kick off their 2017 football season at Qualcomm Stadium against UC Davis.

It will be the first big football game to be played in San Diego since the whole Chargers/Spanos debacle. In my mind this is much more than just a regular season opener.

Saturday’s game is a chance for the Aztecs to show San Diego pride and connect with a lot of football-loving fans that are currently without a team.

Being that it is the first game of a new season, I think coach Rocky Long and his coaching staff will try to put some basic concepts in place in order to get the offense going early.

The Aztecs on Offense

Obviously the Aztecs need to give 25+ touches to Heisman Trophy hopeful Rashaad Penny, but I’m interested to see how creative the offensive coaching staff gets with their talented running back. Penny has the strength to run between the tackles, but in my view he’s much more dangerous when you put him in space. Look for him to catch a couple of screen passes out of the backfield and maybe even line up as a receiver, either split out wide or in the slot. Regardless of how the game plays out, it’s safe to assume that Rashaad Penny will be a focal point of the offense.

I am curious to see the improvement of starting QB Christian Chapman. Obviously last season, the team revolved around NCAA all-time leading rusher Donnell Pumphrey, but with D.J. now in the NFL, I think Chapman will become more than just a “game manager” for the Aztecs. Juwan Washington is an interesting option for the team offensively. The small back will be a nice change of pace from the larger Penny. Look for him to be a factor in the game as well.

Chapman has good chemistry with TE David Wells. In today’s game, having a reliable TE is a great thing to utilize against your opponents. Wells has great potential and even has come up in some national publications as a dark horse contender for the John Mackey Award (which is given to best TE in college football). Though that might be a bit of a stretch, it goes to show how he is perceived by opposing coaches. He’s also a matchup nightmare in the red zone for opposing defenses, so look for Chapman to target him once the Aztecs have the ball inside the 20 yard line. Wells could have a big game against UC Davis.

The Aztecs on Defense

On the other side of the ball, the Aztecs are a work in progress.

Credit; EVT Sports

They do have the best defensive play maker in the MWC in LB Ronnie Lakalaka, who always seems to be around the football. I think Lakalaka will provide leadership and toughness along with the production necessary to become the face of the Aztecs defense.

The Aztecs lost ball hawk CB Damonte Kazee to the NFL draft, so I’m also curious to see who is going to step up and take that role. The Aztecs should be ready for anything because the Aggies have a new head coach in Dan Hawkins and I’m sure he’s going to try to make the most of his debut. The defensive backfield will try to be exploited by the coach as the Aggies should be playing from behind.

SDSU shouldn’t be caught looking ahead to the Standford game in a couple of weeks. Coach Long and the rest of the coaching staff will have the players ready to execute the game plan at a high level from the opening whistle. Look for the offense to have a very aggressive gameplan, but the defense should display discipline, which will be needed for success in this long season.

The Aggies

QB’s Brock Dale (182-313, 1,266 yards and 16 TDs) and C.J. Spencer (8-19, 100 yards and 1 TD) lead the offense. Spencer plays multiple roles, and Dale is the more traditional type of play caller. WR Keelan Doss (66 for 911 yards and 19 TD’s) is the team’s most dominant force on offense. The Aztecs’ defensive backfield will be tested by the big wideout.

Defensively, the Aggies have Ryan Bua (4 1/2 sacks last year), who is capable of being disruptive from the inside linebacker position. The team has had issues stopping the run in the past, so look for Rashaad Penny to have plenty of space to run. Isiah Olave (DB) and Kellen Culberson (S) are two playmakers to keep an eye on as well for the Aggies.

It is important for the Aztecs to try to fill the void left by the departure of the Chargers.

We all know that sports teams become part of the fabric of the community they play in. I think the Aztecs have a great chance of becoming a huge part of the SD sports scene.

The Union Tribune is reporting that over 50,000 people are expected at the “Q” on Saturday night. To me, the city is showing its desire to fall in love with the Aztecs, and the team should deliver a special performance. Even though they play a Big Sky conference opponent, there should be electricity in the air.

San Diego sports fans need the Aztecs, and the Aztecs need San Diego sports fans. Especially when you consider the stadium situation and the future of SDSU football.


SDSU is an overwhelming favorite in this game, but they shouldn’t overlook the Aggies because their offense has some firepower and can score in a hurry as well. If SDSU plays up to its potential, they shouldn’t have much of a problem with UC Davis. I think that the Aztecs will start their 2017 season with a resounding victory on Saturday night as they pull away late in the second half from a scrappy UC Davis team.

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