Here are 10 tidbits following the Aztecs’ impressive victory over Utah State on Saturday.
1. The ancient Greeks had two words to describe “time,” chronos and kairos. Chronos is sequential time with seconds stacked chronologically next to each other; the time measured by clocks. Kairos is the time that qualitatively matters more because of its relation to more difficult moments. SDSU Junior, Rashad Scott, illustrated the difference between the two perfectly on Saturday. In “garbage time” of SDSU’s blowout win, Scott subbed into the Aztec’s defensive backfield and promptly made an interception on a deep pass over the middle. In chronos time, Scott hardly played, and his contribution was insignificant, but in kairos time, Scott’s interception meant the world. Last season, Scott’s playing career was almost cut short when he was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. Yesterday’s interception was a celebratory moment not just for Scott but for the entire team and the community of San Diego; Scott prepped locally at Helix High. Television cameras showed Scott’s teammates mobbing him on the sideline as if he had just won the Super Bowl because, in Kairos time, he had.
2. Happy Belated Birthday, Segun Olubi! If you click on Segun Olubi’s Bio on goaztecs.com, there is nothing listed. A quick Google search reveals after an outstanding career at Centennial High School, Olubi went to NAIA College of Idaho in 2017, Saddleback Community College in 2018, and finally Division II Hardy College last season, where he recorded 2 sacks in a Div II playoff game. This season he transferred to SDSU and did not appear in the first game against UNLV. Yesterday, he was a key contributor at linebacker, recording four tackles and playing with the speed and physicality expected of a senior. He did have a roughing the passer penalty against him, but who could blame him for his exuberance in being close to a D-I quarterback after the journey he has traveled. Olubi quickly atoned for his mistake, helping the Utah State QB off the ground.
Olubi’s inclusion in the two-deep at the “Will” LB is another example of the well-earned reputation SDSU has earned in recent years: the best player will play. The Aztecs’ success stories of taking walk-on athletes and turning them into terrific players are reminders of what college athletics is all about. In a day and age where money and politics play a more important role than the game itself, the San Diego State program is a breath of fresh air.
Oh! The Google search also revealed Segun Olubi was born November 1, 1999. On behalf of the Aztec nation, we wish him the best on the day of his birth. There was no more fitting gift than the playing time he received yesterday.
3. Eleven months ago, former USC QB Jack Sears set the San Diego football community on fire by pledging his commitment to the Aztecs. Yesterday, 580 miles southeast of where SDSU was playing, Sears was getting his first start for Mountain West rival, Boise State. He left many in the Aztec nation wondering what might have been. Sears finished with 280 yards and three touchdowns in Boise State’s win over Air Force.
4. During the offseason, running back by committee was the best guess for how the RB snaps would go for SDSU. After two games, it is clear, the starting running back is Greg Bell. G. Bell carried the ball 22 times. The rest of the running backs had 23 carries combined. The question as we advance is who will be G. Bell’s primary back-up. Yesterday, junior Chance Bell filled that role, rushing for 98 yards on only 10 carries.
5. Junior Jordan Byrd needs more touches. Byrd only touched the ball four times – one rush, one pass, and two punt returns, but was able to turn that one handoff into a 73-yard touchdown. Since Rashaad Penny graduated, SDSU has lacked a player who was a threat to take the ball the distance on any play. Byrd has shown the potential of being that player, and it will be up to Offensive Coordinator Jeff Hecklinski to get him more involved in the offense in the future.
6. SDSU’s defense might be the most complete defense in the Hoke-Long era. Utah State basically succeeded in taking the stars out of the game. They simply designed their plays to go away from Dwayne Johnson, Tariq Thompson, and reigning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week, Caden McDonald. The rest of the Aztecs’ defense stepped up and almost completely shut down the Aggies offense. USU’s drives summary is just beautiful to write: Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Punt, Touchdown, Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, and Fumble.
7. Carson Baker’s touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter was a sign of maturity beyond his years and a great sign for the Aztecs’ offense. Despite having one of the nation’s best rushing attacks for most of the last decade, SDSU has never been particularly skilled at the play-action pass. On the touchdown, Baker faked the handoff to Greg Bell, and it was clear the play was designed to go to the right — away from the play action. Baker scanned right, moved to the center of the field, and didn’t panic before finding G. Bell on the opposite side of the field. In today’s spread offenses, QB’s are not asked to make multiple progression as often as in year’s past. Baker showed the poise of an upperclassman, not someone making his third career start.
8. Certain players have an uncanny ability to find the football. Former Aztec DB, Damontae Kazee, was a turnover machine who forced fumbles and recorded interceptions in bunches. It is looking like Michael Shawcroft might be this type of player. In two games, he has two fumble recoveries. Last night, on Utah State’s last drive, he caused a fumble and then recovered it himself. When Trenton Thompson blocked a punt against UNLV, who did the ball find? Who else? Michael Shawcroft.
9. Junior Kobi Smith has a trend developing. If he gets involved in the passing game early, he stays involved. If he fails to catch a pass at the beginning of the game, he can disappear. Credit Jeff Hecklinski for calling plays to get his talented receiver involved right from the start. Smith rewarded his coach’s confidence with his best game of the 2020 season. Smith led the Aztecs in receptions, yards and opened the scoring with the only Aztec TD of the first half and a spectacular, sliding catch for a first down.
10. After the game, Utah State head Coach Gary Anderson said, “You look at the stat line, and it was complete domination. We battled in the first half and couldn’t do anything in the second half on offense or defense. I don’t know what to say. We just got beat tonight. We just physically got beat up on both sides of the football.” Having watched San Diego State sports intently for more than two decades, it is never tiring to see a head coach lament about the Aztecs’ physical superiority.