By all accounts, the San Diego State Aztecs football team had a stellar 2015 season. They finished 11-3, while picking-up some pretty nice accolades along the way. Such as:
- Winner of the Mountain West Conference West Division
- Mountain West Conference Champion (beating Air Force in the conference championship game)
- Hawaii Bowl Champion (soundly whooping Cincinnati, 42-7).
The Aztecs' only three losses came early on in non-conference play (@ Cal, vs. South Alabama, and @ Penn State). Their Cal and Penn State losses were explainable and predicted, but South Alabama?! More power to the Aztecs, though, for bouncing back from that (undoubtedly) very disappointing loss. After starting out 1-3, the Aztecs won every remaining game (10-0).
Air Game: Through the air, starter QB Maxwell Smith (redshirt senior) threw for 1,529 yards with a 55% completion percentage. On average, he threw for 7.65 yards per attempt, racking up 13 TDs and only 2 INTs all season long. Smith was a very efficient game manager for the Aztecs all season long, but that was for a reason...
Run Game: Because the Aztecs had an extremely dominant double-headed running game. Junior RB Donnel Pumphrey and senior RB Chase Price both had 1,000+ yard rushing seasons! Pumphrey had 309 carries for 1,653 yards (5.4 yards/carry) and 17 rushing TDs. Price had 190 carries for 1,008 yards (5.3 yards/carry) and 6 rushing TDs. The Aztecs' running game carried their offense all season long.
Defense: On the defensive side of the ball, SDSU performed quite well. The unit created 23 interceptions, including returning them for a total of 308 yards and 4 TDs. The Aztecs also had 37 sacks that resulted in opponents losing a total of 244 yards. Lastly, their defensive unit forced 16 fumbles all season long.
Cal vs. SDSU
SDSU was Cal's second opponent of the year, when the buzz surrounding QB Jared Goff and his talented receiving corp was still all the rage from the preceding summer months. Goff went off on the Aztecs, completing 17 of 24 throws for 321 yards, 3 TDs & 1 INT. WR Trevor Davis was the receiving stud of this game (it seemed like Cal had a different top receiver for every 2015 game) with only 3 receptions but 138 receiving yards and 1 TD. On the ground, RB Daniel Lasco dominated with 19 carries for 123 yards and 1 TD.
After letting SDSU score on its first drive, Cal's defense clamped down and didn't allow any more points the rest of the game. While the Bears were on defense for over 34 minutes (a product of the Bear Raid system, which this game showed a lot of), they did not wear down as they bageled the Aztecs the rest of the way.
As this game unfolded, it became a pretty routine game for the Golden Bears as they beat down an inferior opponent and improved to an early 2-0 for the 2015 season.
Given that Cal's starting offensive unit will literally be all different for the 2016 season, there's not much we can take from the SDSU game into next season. But, perhaps, one can infer that when Dykes has the Bear Raid (plus a dominating run game) clicking on all cylinders, this Aztecs match-up was indicative of what is possible. If Dykes can find the right pieces to re-create his offensive scheme in 2016, expect more fireworks.
On the defensive side of the ball is where we fans can get more excited about heading into next year. Against subpar competition, Cal's young defense showed it could stop cold both passing and running games (SDSU's run game was quite hyped-up coming into this one). With one more year under their belts, expect this unit to gel more and get bigger/faster/stronger for 2016!