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San Diego Sportscene / Dave Distel

When It's BYU, Say Bye-Bye to Aztecs

November 29, 1986|DAVE DISTEL

First of all, let's make it clear that the Brigham Young University Cougars are not the same as the Los Angeles Raiders.

When BYU comes to town, it is not necessary to get the women and children off the streets, lock up family heirlooms and hide civic treasures. Homeowners' insurance companies need not cringe when the Cougars arrive.

However, it is a good idea to get the San Diego State football team out of sight. Send it to Ensenada . . . or maybe Saskatchewan . . . for the weekend. Stick it in the back room, because the Cougars are so polite they will sit primly in the parlor and sip tea.

Just don't let the Cougars see the Aztecs. That's when it gets ugly.

If history is any indication, the Aztecs would be better off trying to keep the Russians from landing on the Coronado Strand than they've been trying to beat BYU. Heck, they'd probably have more luck keeping the tide from landing.

Indeed, BYU's probably wondering when the real San Diego State football team is going to show up. It can be excused for wondering if, maybe, it has been trampling the fraternity all-stars all these years. Or maybe the sorority all-stars.

BYU vs. San Diego State cannot be considered a rivalry, unless maybe FDR vs. Alf Landon was considered a rivalry. Or the Panzers vs. any cavalry.

San Diego State has been on the same field with BYU eight times as a member of the Western Athletic Conference. I say "on the same field" because the Aztecs never seem to have been in the same game. BYU has been the winner on each occasion, compiling a composite advantage of 313 points to 58. BYU scored as many or more points on two occasions than the Aztecs have totaled for the series.

What's more, BYU has treated San Diego like a Provo suburb. Call it South Provo, if you will.

When civic leaders hereabouts established the Holiday Bowl, they presumed it would be a nice place to showcase the local heroes. Bring on some snowbirds from the North or Midwest and let the Aztecs go after them with their flash-and-dash passing attack.

Of course, BYU has spoiled all that. It represented the WAC in the first seven Holiday Bowls. The Cougars have come to think that Mission Valley was carved out of the Wasatch Mountains.

The Aztecs, meanwhile, have never made it to the Holiday Bowl, except maybe as parking lot attendants or security guards.

Anyone who has been around here a few years remembers San Diego State's closest call. It was in 1979, when BYU came to town for the season finale. The winner would go to Holiday Bowl II and the Aztec faithful packed the stadium, surely thinking it merely a fluke that BYU had made it to the first Holiday Bowl in 1978.

To the great embarrassment of SDSU, that game was also nationally televised. The WAC race may have been close that year, but the deciding game certainly wasn't. BYU won, 63-14.

That was to be the most inglorious Saturday in San Diego State athletic history.

The coaching staff never recovered, though it staggered through one more year. The football program never recovered, though it staggered through six more years.

If the Aztecs had won that day, or even had lost, 17-14, the course of the SDSU athletic department would have been altered to the good.

However, that stigma was so hard to overcome that the community turned off to both SDSU and the WAC.

Maybe, just maybe, now is the time for an upward swing. Maybe this is the year the Aztecs will make their Holiday Bowl debut.

Is the community skeptical? You're darned right it is. Otherwise, why would critical WAC games with Air Force, Wyoming and Hawaii draw "darned if we couldn't find anything else to do" crowds of 27,336, 20,168 and 23,838? That's either apathy with a capital A through Y . . . or skepticism.

San Diego is saying: "We've been this way before."

And now here comes BYU.

If there is anything different this time, it may be that the coaching staff is not in awe of Brigham Young University. Denny Stolz, the head coach, is an innocent from the farmlands of the Midwest, where he coached Michigan State and Bowling Green. He is approaching this game as if oblivious to the fact that SDSU has never had a chance in this non-rivalry.

Hopefully, no one will tell him BYU doesn't play football with college kids. Being a religious university, BYU is able to send its kids out for two years of missionary work and bring them back with gray in their beards and an extra layer of muscles. I expect that one of these days BYU will have a grandfather starting at linebacker.

In fact, what we have is beach boys against mountain men. And Stolz thought it was nasty of Ohio State to drag all those Hulk Hogan clones out of the Pennsylvania coal mines.

Stolz has attempted to maintain his historical naivete this week.

As he insisted: "We don't have control over history."

This may well be the exception to the adage that states that people who ignore history are destined to repeat it. Denny Stolz is adopting the only attitude that has a chance to work.

If he does not get his players' minds off what has happened in the past against BYU, he may as well pull up in front of the San Diego State locker room with a bus this afternoon.

"Come on, guys," he would say. "Get in so we can get out. If we're out of town by dusk, maybe no one will miss us. I'll drive."

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