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By Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
November 26, 2018 (San Diego) - After a heartbreaking overtime loss to Hawaii on Saturday night, SDSU football head coach Rocky Long sat down with the media today and was surprisingly cheerful.
"We just got done with Thanksgiving so I am thankful that we have had a winning record and we are still bowl eligible," Long joked in his opening statement. "There’s a chance we get to play another game, but we’re frustrated and disappointed that we haven’t played as well as we expect to play the last half of the season. So we started today to work on improving for next year. Most of our coaches are on the road recruiting right now. Over the next few weeks we’re going to do a total evaluation of how the program is run and how we do things around here. When our team gets back from Christmas vacation we can start implementing those things so that we return to the expected win-loss record that we’re all use to having around here. That being said, we’re still bowl eligible and hopefully someone takes us to a bowl game.”
Long was asked to evaluate what exactly went wrong for the Aztecs this year. “I don’t know. That’s why we’re re-evaluating everything. Maybe we’re doing everything right and it’s just one of those seasons where nothing went right, and late in the season the bad breaks happen. Injuries have something to do with it, obviously, but that’s an excuse. We don’t make excuses. We didn’t get better. The last half of the season we played the same way every game. Every game was close and when every game is close, guess what? You’re going to win half of them and lose half of them. That’s just the way it works. I didn’t see us getting any better. I thought we played the last game of the year just like we did the sixth or seventh game of the year.”
What will Long do to make the Aztecs better? “We’re going to go more in-depth. We’re going to go all the way from offseason workouts because we have a system that we’ve run since I’ve been the head coach. We’re going to re-evaluate what we do on offense, we’re going to re-evaluate what we do on defense. We’re re-evaluating right now how we recruit. Recruiting has gone better over the last five or six years according to the people that judge the recruiting classes. I think maybe in the process of recruiting more highly rated guys by recruiting services we’ve lost a little bit of an edge that we had.”
Long admitted that there were some coaching mistakes made on Saturday night. “I’m not going to get into particulars, but I don’t think we coached as well this year as we have had in the past. Some of that is that we have new coaches in the system and they don’t understand the system as well. I’ll give you one on Saturday night. I think I messed up. I though we totally had the momentum right there in overtime and, by the way, the game should have been over before that if you look at a replay or two. They would have had fourth-and-11, and they should have been trying to kick a field goal from a long distance. But we let them score and we scored on the very first play that we had the ball in overtime. That is huge momentum. So the right thing to do for it is to go for it right there. That’s the right thing to do. We’ve had a 2-point play that we’ve been working on what seems like forever that’s a really good play. We called that play and somehow we messed it up. The mistake was made after that play. Since we messed it up, I should have, maybe even taken a penalty, kicked the extra-point then and let us settle back down and go into the second overtime. That was a mistake by me. Sometimes it’s an emotional mistake. We messed up the 2-point play that I thought for sure was going to work and we had all the momentum. Since we messed that up, I should have stepped back and taken the delay of game penalty and kick a little longer PAT, and go onto the second overtime. But I thought we were going to win the game before that too. John Baron is a darn good kicker and I thought he was going to win it for us like he has many, many times, then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.”
Despite the losses, Long says he's happy with the effort that the Aztecs have displayed. “I'm happy with the effort. I don't think we have ever had a team that has given up. You can tell when a team gives up, you can tell when a team decides that they don't want to play anymore, you can tell when a team has already decided the other team has won. I don't think we've done that. I think we took the early losses really hard but I think we played as hard as we could in the last two games. I'm not sure we did the two games before that but I think the last two games our team put a really good effort out.”
Long says not making a bowl game won't be devastating to the Aztecs. “Not a crushing blow because our team was prepared. They were told before the last game that if they didn't win there was a chance they weren't going to a bowl game. So our team is sitting just like I am wondering if we're going to get to go or not. I think it'll be a celebration for the career of the seniors and the seniors we're going to have a great time. I'm sure the other guys will have a good time once we get to the bowl game but they're probably not going to have a good time the first week that we practice.”