McGrane: For Aztecs, Broncos the Talk is Over…Mercifully

San Diego State head coach Rocky Long.
Oct. 13, 2017

2017 Mick McGrane Features
Recognition Won't Slow Aztecs' Resolve (Jan. 13)
Aztecs Prepared to Assume Center Stage (Jan. 20)
Continuity Fortifies Aztecs' Stronghold (Feb. 3)
For SDSU, It's What's Up Front That Counts (March 3)
Lakalaka Looms Large in Aztec LB Corps (March 15)
Aztecs' Baron Gets Kick out of Notoriety (March 17)
Ricks Hopes to Put Best Foot Forward (March 20)
Aztecs Lampoon Pomposity of Power 5 (March 22)
Penny is Worth Every Cent to Aztecs (Aug. 7)
Kelly Takes Seat at Head of the Class (Aug. 9)
Showing the Way is Worth the Wait for Wells (Aug. 18)
It's a Numbers Game for Aztec Running Backs (Aug. 26)
Aztecs' O-Line Anxious to Block Out Noise (Sept. 1)
Aztecs Add Some Aces to a Winning Hand (Sept. 3)
As Fervor Grows, Aztecs Affix Poker Faces (Sept. 15)
These Aztecs are That Good -- Believe It (Sept. 17)
Aztecs' Resolve Won't Be Slowed in Midst of Streak (Oct. 1)
Aztecs Convinced You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet (Oct. 6)

McGrane: For Aztecs, Broncos the Talk is Over…Mercifully
By Mick McGrane, GoAztecs.com Senior Writer (@MickOnTheMesa)

All week, pen in hand and ready to pounce, I’d been hoping someone would crack the ice on this supposed chilly relationship in the War Between The States (San Diego and Boise).

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Yet as is customarily the case in such matters of magnitude, flattery and felicitations ruled the day, with laud being lobbed from each side like so many bridal bouquets.

What is this, a rivalry or a family reunion? There’s been as much praise bequeathed on bank robbers.

Aren’t these the two teams that stare at each other from afar like a pack of hyenas sent to bed sans supper? Aren’t these the two teams that have waited two years to finally conk the other on the crown of the head and strut about cackling, “Told ya so, told ya so.”

Instead, the fuel for the fire is ignited by pleasantries, as though this were a comfy conversation between longtime neighbors over a backyard fence.

Where’s the venom? Where’s the vile? Is no one here capable of uttering at least a smattering of smack?

Aztecs head coach Rocky Long, who did his best to get the Broncos’ attention three years ago by saying their program had nothing to do with “mystique,” was the perfect gentleman this week. And while I know full well Rocky Long is a perfect gentleman, he’s also one of the fiercest competitors in the business.

Nonetheless:

“I don’t think the two schools have played each other enough to have developed a rivalry to this point,” Long said of Saturday’s pending collision. “I mean, to develop a rival, you have to play each other a lot of times and I think we’ve played each other four times total. That’s a long way from being a rivalry. I would say our rivals are Fresno State.”

Fresno State? Hey, I have absolutely nothing against the Bulldogs and I’m partial to any game involving an Oil Can as a trophy, but Fresno State?

Where’s all the “We-don’t-like-them-and-they-don’t-like us?” Where’s all the talk about payback? What happened to dissing an opponent who thinks they’re better than you and has the pedigree to prove it?

Instead, we get this:

“I think it’s exciting, because it’s been so long since we’ve played them,” Boise State linebacker Gabe Perez told the Idaho Statesman. “Last couple years, they’ve been at the top, we haven’t won the Mountain West championship, so it’s exciting to see where we’re at compared to them.”

But, Gabe, you don’t have to compare! Go ahead and crow! Show some swagger, some swank, my friend! Has SDSU had a run of 15 straight bowl appearances, the best mark in the nation? Hardly. Have the Aztecs posted 14 straight 10-wins seasons since 1996? SDSU needed three years to win 10 games from 2007 through 2009. The Broncos finished undefeated in both 2006 (13-0) and 2009 (14-0). The Aztecs haven’t been undefeated in 48 years.

And still:

“I don’t think it’s any different than any other game,” Long said. “I think both teams will be highly motivated, both teams want to win, both teams want to win the conference championship. It’s no different than every league game that we play.”

Whoa. Now if you’re looking for bulletin board material, there’s the crown jewel. Why not just yawn and roll your eyes? Why not just say, “Well, we needed to fill the schedule somehow, and these guys just happened to be available?” Why not send candy and flowers and enough heart emojis to sizzle the brains of a smart phone?

“We looked forward to playing (SDSU) three years ago,” said Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin. “We came back in the second half and beat them (38-29). I’ve had just the one experience playing them, but they’re playing well. They’re certainly doing some good things on the offensive side, defensive side and special teams.

“This (SDSU) is a well-rounded football team. This is not just Rashaad Penny and the offense. He’s a really good football player, but look at their defense. They’ve got 17 sacks, eight (interceptions), they’re No. 12 (in the nation) in turnover margin. They’ve got two kickoff returns for touchdowns this year already. This is a very balanced team. I thought they were that way three years ago, too, but we came out and played physical and beat them.”

Now them’s fightin’ words. Nobody plays more physical than the Aztecs, right? Well, at least when they’re not handing out compliments like fliers in Midtown Manhattan.

Asked this week if an Aztec win might allow SDSU to supplant Boise State as the “big dog” in the Mountain West, junior linebacker Ronley Lakalaka wasn't about to bite.

“That’s your opinion,” Lakalaka said. “For us, we’re just trying to focus on the game and not about what’s going on between us. Boise State is a great team and there’s a reason why they’re at where they are. They’ve been running the conference for a couple years now.”

Well, no, that would be SDSU, which has won two straight MW titles while winning 27 of its last 30 games and 14 of its last 16. At no time during their current run, however, did the Aztecs play the Broncos, who are undoubtedly furious about their inability to prevent SDSU from grabbing the glory that was once BSU’s.

“We have to prepare, just like we did for New Mexico or Virginia or any of those other guys,” said Broncos linebacker Tyson Maeva, a graduate of San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High, who was recruited by the Aztecs but says he was “more comfortable” at BSU. “Every week we look forward to a new challenge, sitting down and watching film and seeing (SDSU’s) strengths and weaknesses, and I’m sure they’re sitting down doing the same thing to us. I think it’s going to be a great challenge.”

Actually, Tyson, the challenge is to get anybody involved to admit that bad blood flows freely, that both teams want nothing more than to give the other a shiner and a reason to submit to superiority.

Alas, given the disgusting lack of sordid and unsavory things we would duly expect two (rival) teams to spew, matters must be settled on the field.

And we all know what that means for Boise State.

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