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The only thing constant in life is change. Or maybe just the fact that things may never change for the San Diego State football team.

Stop if you’ve heard this one before: the Aztecs play their hearts out in a game in which they have a chance to make a huge leap forward in their program’s history. They run up and down the field, make magical, highlight-reel plays, set records, scare the daylights out of a top team, and…well, you’ve heard this one before.

So you know how it ends. They lose.

On a rainy Saturday night at Qualcomm Stadium, SDSU (once again) did everything but beat the Utah Utes, a team that just a couple of weeks ago was the undefeated fifth-ranked team in the country.

A win, and the Aztecs themselves may have been ranked come Monday morning for the first time in 15 years. Instead they fell, 38-34, the result leaving the Red and Black faithful wondering what they usually are forced to wonder after games like these…What if? How come? When are we ever? Why us?

So SDSU is 7-4 with one regular season game remaining in a season in which so may strides have been made, but also a season that — put simply — could have been so much more astonishingly remarkable and amazing.

They lost to Utah despite sweeping down the field on their opening possession of the game and scoring for a 7-0 lead just 1:59 into the contest. They lost despite scoring on three more possessions in the first half, breezing downfield with ease on drives that covered 98, 79 and 84 yards. They led, 20-3, and then again by 17 points, 27-10.

They lost despite quarterback Ryan Lindley passing for a career-high 528 yards, the fourth-most ever in Aztec history. Their two spectacular wide receivers, Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, combined for 20 catches, 338 yards and three touchdowns, yet it wasn’t enough.

Brown’s third TD of the game was one of the best plays you’d ever see a receiver make. Lindley, scrambling out of the pocket at his own 10-yard-line, threw the ball up for grabs towards Brown at the SDSU 40. Two Utah defenders were there to intercept, but Brown leaped above both of them, tipped the ball over their heads to himself and raced toward the end zone, out-running three pursuers to the goal line to complete a 90-yard touchdown that gave the Aztecs a 34-24 lead in the third quarter.

Yet, they still lost.

“In the end, we didn’t do enough for the full 60 minutes,” said Coach Brady Hoke, who has done so much to awaken this previously moribund football program yet is still searching for a way to get his team over the hump.

They won’t get there until a whole bunch of the following stuff stops happening. Utah scored on a 57-yard TD pass, beating a broken coverage, and it scored on a hail-mary 47-yard TD pass on the final play of the first half when five Aztec defenders couldn’t keep the ball from finding its way into the hands of Utes tight end Kendrick Moeai.

DeMarco Sampson reaches out to try and reel in a one-handed catch (619 Sports photo/Danny Heilprin)DeMarco Sampson reaches out to try and reel in a one-handed catch (619 Sports photo/Danny Heilprin)

In the fourth quarter, SDSU punter Brian Stahovich dropped a perfectly good snap from center, picked it up and then had his kick blocked, with Utah recovering at the 3-yard-line. Four plays later, running back Eddie Wide swept into the end zone to give the Utes their first lead of the game, 38-34, with 10:25 remaining.

Winging downfield twice on Lindley’s arm, the Aztecs still had chances to win, but both drives ended in Utah interceptions. The three SDSU turnovers in the game — plus the blocked punt — were ultimately the difference. As well as the Aztecs played, they still made key mistakes. Utah, which improved to 9-2 with the win, did not turnover the ball once.

One tough loss like this would be hard enough. But all of the Aztecs’ losses this season have been like this. They lost, 27-24, at Missouri when they allowed a 68-yard, game-winning TD pass in the final minute — the play only occurring because officials missed a blatant block-in-the-back that wiped out two Aztec defenders and cleared the way for the Tigers’ T.J. Moe to race down the sidelines.

They lost, 24-21, at BYU in part because a clear Cougars’ fumble was not called on the field nor overturned by a replay-booth full of BYU officials (supporters). They lost, 40-35, at third-ranked TCU despite jumping to a 14-0 lead and then, later, rallying for three late TD’s in the fourth-quarter.

Now this one. Four losses this season by a total of 15 points. And, just for good measure, there was a bit of controversy to deal with here as well. On the final, fateful Lindley interception — with Brown open in the end zone to perhaps win it, Utah’s Derrick Shelby delivered a forearm shiv to the face of Lindley as he let the pass go.

The illegal blow, called in football games every Saturday and Sunday of every season, sent Lindley’s throw wobbling off target, allowing Utah’s Brian Blecken to pick if off. Of course, no call was made.

For SDSU, considering where it has been, there is nothing wrong with 7-4, and perhaps an 8-4 finish if the Aztecs can beat UNLV — which they should — next weekend. One more chance for glory would await after that, in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 against Navy.

Frustratingly, though, this season could have been so much more. But, at least for now, they’re still the Aztecs.

–Courtesy of our friends at

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