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Story by Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
For videos of David Wells’, Trey Lomax's, and Brian Dutcher's portions of the press conference, click “read more” and scroll down.
November 21, 2017 (San Diego) - Two days before Thanksgiving, San Diego State Aztecs provided a treat for us at this week's press conference: a helping of football and men's basketball. Football head coach Rocky Long, senior tight end David Wells and senior safety Trey Lomax took the podium, as well as men's basketball head coach Brian Dutcher.
“Hopefully we are looking forward to our first afternoon game in a long, long time," Long opened with, however... "Playing at 12:30 is a big concern. I don’t know if it should be or not, but it is a big concern. The short week is a little bit of a big concern since we are playing a triple-option team, but more so that afternoon game. We are so used to hanging out until late at night to play it’s going to be a shock to the system. Then it’s supposed to be near 90 degrees, you don’t expect that this time of year. The most concerning thing is the kind of offense New Mexico runs. It takes a long time to get ready for that kind of offense.”
Long gave a scouting report on New Mexico quarterback Lamar Jordan. “He’s a good option quarterback. He reads it well and doesn’t make many mistakes, and if you let him carry the ball he can take it the distance..."
Does SDSU feel pressure? “I think we feel pressure. Because of the success of the program, I think our players feel pressure to win 10 games. I think our team is disappointed they are not in the championship game. I think there are all types of mental issues our team is going through right now.”
Long sounded off on senior running back Rashaad Penny not being a finalist for many national awards, including the Heisman Trophy. “I think it’s ridiculous. I talk about this all the time and nobody wants to hear it, but I’m going to say it again. The financial resource gap between the Power 5 group and us (Group of 5) is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous and it gets bigger every year. They are trying to exclude us, they are trying to eliminate us and trying to make us a different division than them is exactly what’s going on. So the people who are with them are going to make sure that the non-Power 5 guys don’t get any recognition if they can help it. That’s very disappointing and very upsetting. I’m really disappointed for our team and for Rashaad, but it’s not surprising. It gets worse every year.
“I hope what it does for our team is make us mad. I hope it makes Rashaad mad, too. Then we will have no problems on Friday. Anybody that follows our program think’s it not right, but not many people nationally follow our program."
From that point on, Long absolutely gushed about Penny. “The most surprising thing about him is how versatile he is. Take all of those other guys that are up for those awards. Any of those return punts for touchdowns? Any of those guys return kicks for touchdowns? Any of those guys catch it any better than he does? I don’t think so. We even tried to let him throw a touchdown pass the other day...That would have put him over the edge if he would have completed a touchdown pass. I imagine if we put him on defense, he could run people down and tackle them too. It’s too bad. That’s the way it is. I think last year he did a lot of things that made us realize he’s special. The one that everybody sees is his kickoff returns."
Lomax reflected on Friday being the Aztec seniors' last game at SDCCU Stadium. “I wouldn’t say we’re approaching it any differently because I don’t think it’s hit us yet that it’s our last game at home. But I’m sure once we get out there and we’re looking around taking everything in knowing it’s our last time playing in that stadium, there’ll probably be a little extra fire for us to play every play like it’s our last because it is. It’s our last game being able to play in that stadium that we’ve been playing in the last couple of years. But as far as our approach, I think we’re going about it the same way.”
Wells added a little bit more emotion. “Just going off what Trey said, we have to take the same approach every week. Every year you go through Senior Day and see all the seniors going down the Warrior Walk and taking pictures with their families and say, ‘Oh I’ve got a long time until then’. Now all of a sudden, it’s your turn and you say, ‘well that was really quick.’ It’s the truth, it goes by in a blink of an eye. Yeah, you’re going to have a little extra fire going out there. Some guys are just going to have to control it and use it for what we need to use it for.”
His favorite SDSU memory? "The Stanford win (earlier this season) is definitely up there. The conference championship game two years ago against Air Force. That was my 21st birthday that day, so that was pretty fun. I turned 21 that day and we just won the championship. It was a fun night.”
On playing a day game on a Friday: “It’s going to be weird … I don’t remember what it was like to be playing with the sun still out, so it’s going to be weird. Especially since it’s going to be on a Friday, too, so it’s going to be that much quicker of a week. It’ll be a little bit of an adjustment. I’m glad we’ll play on Friday; we’ll have some more people watching us, so that’ll be good.”
Wells and Lomax shared the same memory. “I’ll second that, whatever (Trey) said right there. Winning the championship at home (in 2015) after how the start of that season went. Everybody was calling out all of us, calling out the coaches. Then the way we finished the year and won the championship, you know what? We were just fine. Being able to do that and then going to a bowl game and beating Cincinnati and carrying that for a couple of years that was a pretty awesome feeling. One of the best memories was definitely that championship win.”
On playing a day game: “It’ll be cool to have something different rather than just staying in the hotel all day (when) you wake up and it’s game time. So now people are going to have to change their rituals a little bit before the game and probably switch them to the night before or wake up a bit earlier to get your stuff done. You know it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be interesting, especially trying to catch the ball with the sunlight out. We’re not really used to that anymore, so it should be interesting.”
Wells shared the same fire that Long had in defense of his running back not being a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. “I think it’s a joke; it’s awful. Obviously he’s one of the best running backs in the nation. It’s fun blocking for the guy. I get to see him every single day and see how he runs. I don’t see any other running backs doing what he does. You can compare his stats to other peoples’ and you can see how he’s done. And then people will say we’re not a Power 5 school, but look what he did against Power 5 schools. The man’s a monster. I don’t understand how you can just (put) down a guy just because he’s in a non-Power 5 conference. But when he has over 1,800 yards with still a game or two to go and he’s leading the nation in many categories and then last week gets over 400 (all-purpose) yards, which quarterbacks usually don’t really do but he did pretty much all by himself, I think it’s an absolute joke. People who they had going ahead of him, of course, some of them I get it. I don’t see how you can leave him out of the conversation.”
SDSU takes on New Mexico Friday afternoon on Senior Day at 12:30 p.m.
“It was a step forward at last night’s game against Eastern Illinois," Dutcher opened his portion of the conference with. We shot the ball well, which I knew we could, we just hadn’t at this point. Led by Matt Mitchell’s three-point barrage, we’re hard to guard when that three-ball goes in...We made some open ones, and we made a couple tough ones. Good night shooting for the Aztecs, our defense continues to get better, as we spend more time on it and challenge the team in practice every day. I feel pretty good with where we’re at right now heading into the (Wooden) Legacy. We will need our entire bench for that event, we play three games in four days. I think the toughest part is going to be playing that 10:00 p.m. game on Thursday night and then coming back and playing at either 4 or 6 the next day, under a 24-hour turnaround will be a challenge for every team in the event, but obviously us more than other with playing the late night game. Looking forward to taking the day off, which we are, and letting the kids rest their legs a little bit, and then heading up to the Legacy tomorrow.”
Dutcher complained about the 10:00 p.m. tipoff on Thursday night then talked about the 24-hour turnaround. “Yeah, I think TV has way too much control over tip times. I mean, to play a 10:00 p.m. game on the west coast to fill a time slot is kind of ridiculous. People on the east aren’t going to stay up until 1:00 a.m. to watch a game on Thanksgiving. Even the people in the west are going to be in bed at 10:00 p.m. Only the most dedicated Aztec fans will be at the game and be watching the game. 10:00 is way too late to tip a game on west coast time.
"...we won’t make excuses, we’ll wake up the next day and play that next game.”
Dutcher gave an update on Max Montana's knee. “It’s kind of day-to-day. They (athletic training staff) look at him and see what the swelling is. I know it’s going down on its own, they haven’t had to drain his knee. He’s already in full rehab mode and working hard at that I just trust in Sergio (Ibarra) and our medical staff and when they tell me he’s ready to start doing a little bit more, some shooting and stuff like that, we’ll get him going. Like I said at the time, I’d love to have him right now, but I think we’re very fortunate that he’s going to comeback after everyone saw the hyperextension on the floor against Arizona State. We’re just happy to have him back at any point at this time.
“I know he’s probably not going to play in the opener (Thursday). It’s day-to-day, it really is. It’s how he feels, how much pain he’s got, because it’s basically a bone bruise from the bones hitting each other when he hyperextended, now it’s just how quickly he’s able to heal. So there’s nothing structurally wrong, other than the bruise, which is painful. So it might take a little while, we’re going to be very cautious and make sure he’s ready. We’re not going to try to rush him out there for a preseason tournament or a game. The conference is everything so we want to make sure he’s healthy going into the conference season.”
Aztecs men's basketball kicks off the Wooden Legacy on Thanksgiving night with a 10:00 p.m. tipoff against Sacramento State in Fullerton.