Torero football loses 37-3 to San Diego State

Matthew Roberson | Sports Editor | @mroberson22

Redshirt sophomore tight end Ross Dwelley looks into the sun to find the ball. Photo Courtesy of Ian Lituchy/The Vista

Ian Lituchy/The Vista

When the University of San Diego football team met the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday, Sept. 5 at Qualcomm Stadium, it was not only the first game of the season for both teams but also the first meeting between the neighboring schools since 1961. To top it off, it was the first time that USD has ever played a Division I FBS opponent.

Given the circumstances, the Toreros have several things to be proud of. Despite losing the game by a score of 37-3, many players performed admirably against a team that offers scholarships for its players. This San Diego State team has also been picked by experts to compete for a spot in their conference championship game.

The Toreros’ defense played especially well. The unit allowed only 139 passing yards while also stopping the Aztecs on more than half of their third down plays. While San Diego State finished with 37 points, three of their touchdowns were scored by their defense and special teams. Toreros’ junior cornerback Jamal Agnew, made the play of the game by intercepting a pass from SDSU quarterback Maxwell Smith in the first quarter. Agnew’s athletic play not only gave his team the ball back near midfield, it also energized his teammates and the section of passionate USD students seated near the corner of the east end zone.

Agnew, a local San Diegan who attended Point Loma High School, spoke after the game about his standout performance.

“The Toreros are always built on their defense,” Agnew said. “That’s a good sign for us when the defense is firing on all cylinders.”

Unfortunately the offense was unable to match the production of their teammates on defense. The game saw head coach Dale Lindsey play three different quarterbacks; each of them threw at least one interception. To make things worse, starting running back Jonah Hodges was injured and had to leave the game before halftime. He has been diagnosed with a fractured clavicle, something that Lindsey said could keep him sidelined for four to six weeks. Hodges was the leading rusher on last year’s team with over 1,200 yards.

One bright spot for the Toreros’ offense was redshirt sophomore tight end Ross Dwelley. An imposing figure at 6’5” and 240 lbs, Dwelley had no problem finding holes in the Aztecs’ stellar pass defense. Dwelley finished the game with a team-leading five catches and 50 receiving yards.

USD was at a staggering disadvantage from the opening kickoff, given the fact that the players on the other side of the field compete on athletic scholarships. San Diego State also plays in the Mountain West conference against programs like the Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs,and Colorado State Rams, all of whom make regular appearances in bowl games. However, for the Torero players and fans in attendance, the lopsided matchup did nothing to take away from their excitement.

In the pre-game warmups it was evident that the boys in blue had no fear of their crosstown rivals, instead bouncing around the field showing palpable excitement and optimism. Senior offensive lineman, Jeff Starr, and junior wide receiver, Brian Riley, were among the most vocal players during the festivities leading up to the opening kick. When the squad entered the playing surface from the locker room they were led by senior cornerback Yogi Hale, one of the veteran leaders of this confident group of players. Even our lovable mascot, Diego Torero, was enjoying himself, using the time before the game to take pictures with USD alumni and playfully mess with the San Diego State marching band.

The other aspect of the game that was immediately noticeable was the size of the arena in comparison to Torero Stadium, the usual home of USD football. The cozy stadium nestled on the USD campus holds just 6,000 spectators. The announced attendance for this game was over eight times that amount, at a whopping 48,785. In addition to being the home of San Diego State football, Qualcomm Stadium has hosted the NFL’s San Diego Chargers since 1967, making it the second oldest stadium in the league behind only legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI.

Being from San Diego, the opportunity to play in Qualcomm Stadium was extra special for Jamal Agnew. Perhaps one of the reasons for his exceptional play was because he had overwhelming support from family and friends in the crowd. He was quick to point out how grateful he was for that support in his post-game interview.

“I’m like 50 deep right now,” Agnew said. “It’s unreal, man. I’m still trying to soak it in right now.”

Not only were there waves of reinforcement from the family and friends of the players, but the USD student body came out in large quantities to cheer on their university’s football team. Junior engineering student Craig Wade was among the hundreds of students who made their way east to enjoy the Saturday atmosphere of a college football game in one of the nation’s oldest football venues.

“I had a great time at the game,” Wade said. “It was one of the larger games that I’ve been to, so it was fun. My favorite part was when my boy [junior safety] Nate Loya got in the game. It was cool seeing someone I’m close to play in an NFL stadium.”

Unfazed by the Aztecs’ student section which was packed to the brim 40 minutes before the game even started, USD made their voices heard at times throughout the game. Apart from the obligatory “Olé, Olé, Olé” and “U-S-D” chants, the makeshift Bull Pit also responded well to the action on the field. An auditory roar could be heard when Agnew picked off that pass in the first quarter. The other notable outburst came in the third quarter, when the Toreros scored their only points of the game thanks to a field goal by redshirt sophomore kicker Jack Flatau.

Regardless of the final score, the revival of the city’s college football rivalry was a tremendous experience for everyone in support of USD. The players were given a shot to showcase their skills against some top athletes from the Mountain West. The fans finally had a reason to travel to Qualcomm and partake in the activities of a packed parking lot tailgate before soaking in the sunshine and football with their fellow Toreros. The coaching staff surely learned some valuable lessons about the game when preparing for the difficult level of competition. Also, the USD athletic department was given $350,000 in return for agreeing to play against an FBS opponent. That large amount of money will certainly help heal the wounds.

All in all, the event served as a fun way to kick start the fall semester and the 2015 football season. The Toreros will play the first home game of the new campaign on September 12 against the Western New Mexico Mustangs at 6:00 p.m. They will then have a bye week before traveling to Indiana for a game against their conference foe, the Valparaiso Crusaders, on Sept. 26.