Aztecs blown out by Panthers in home opener, lose 40-19

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The San Diego State football team got off to an rocky start on Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium, losing to FCS Eastern Illinois, 40-19.



Rocky Long started this week's press conference saying, "I really hope that this team knows how good that Eastern Illinois is so they come prepared."  And from today's results, the Aztecs were not prepared or disciplined enough to stop the Panther offense.

He said he was nervous because you don't know what you have until you start playing games.Three weeks ago I thought we had a really good football team, but now I am nervous...a team has to gel; you need a team effort to win games.

The Aztecs looked nervous, they looked flat; they looked like they ran out of gas five minutes into the third quarter. On the other hand Eastern Illinois looked sharp and mature. They came into Qualcomm and beat the Aztecs with well-prepared game plan on both sides of the ball.

Panthers Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 31-of-46 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Erik Lora as Eastern Illinois beat San Diego State 40-19 at home.

Eastern Illinois (1-0) broke a 19-19 tie when Taylor Duncan capped a 12-play 75-yard drive with a two-yard TD run with 7:36 left in the third quarter.

Duncan, who rushed for 94 yards on 20 carries, would cap the night with a 45-yard TD run with 4:40 left.

Eastern Illinois built a 19-13 lead at halftime as Garoppolo completed 15-of-24 passes for 246 yards and threw touchdown passes of 37 and four yards to Lora and a 62-yard strike to Keiondre Gober that broke a 13-13 tie with 3:22 left in the first half.

The Aztecs were out of sorts. Starting running back, Adam Muema went down with a ankle injury in the first half and only ran for 17 yards on 10 carries. Outside linebacker Derek Largent injured his knee and was pulled plays later. Injuries or not the game went from bad to worse in the third quarter when Dingwell fumbled a ball when Dino Fanti hit him and he recovered for Eastern Illinois. Dingwell also tossed 4 interceptions and only completed 27 of his 63 throws.

The Aztecs played from behind the entire game. Colin Lockett dropped as many balls as he caught; Ezell Ruffin and Tim Vizzi made some catches, but not when it counted. The Aztec's running game was a far cry from last year's team that was top 25 in the nation in rushing and only gained 122 yards on 35 carries running by committee.  At the end of the game 5 turnovers and a sloppy offensive effort killed the Aztecs; as much as, a very well disciplined, fast-paced, highly productive Eastern Illinois attack.  Credit Eastern Illinois for the win they earned it.

The Aztecs will have a lot to learn before next weeks' meeting in Columbus against The Ohio State University.  Look for Aztecs to work the pass coverage on the corners, closing inside gaps and better pursuit tackling. The offense needs work on slowing down outside pressure, making catches and holding onto the football. Its time to forget this one. Move onto next week. This defeat was a disaster.

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