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'Medical concerns' sideline Aztec players in Mountain West Championship

John McCoy
San Diego State quarterback Jordon Brookshire (4) runs away from Utah State defensive end Nick Heninger (42) in the first half during an NCAA college football game for the Mountain West Conference Championship, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Carson, Calif.

The Aztecs were ready, hyped up, and had the record over the Utah State 'Auggies' going into Saturday’s championship game. All signs pointed to victory.

"Everyone was really excited to be there and potentially win the championship," said Martyna Malolepszy, a freshman student and diehard Aztec football fan.

Fans such as Malolepszy showed up big time, and made the two-hour road trip to Carson to support their beloved Aztecs,


"Going into the game we thought we had it in the bag," she said

Malolepszy had never seen as many Aztecs in the stands cheering.

"I was excited watching at the beginning of the game and even going into halftime," San Diego State senior student Leo Mendoza said. "We were down but I know we came back in other games before."

But soon that hope turned into despair.

"Things kind of just started snowballing and you know they weren’t able to come back from it," he said.


It was so painful that he stopped watching in the third quarter.

But Mendoza also said the Aztecs' 11-1 record was no small feat, and he was proud of the team and what they accomplished.

Aztec wide receiver Jesse Matthews couldn't hold back his disappointment during the post-game news conference.

"Very frustrating obviously we didn’t do what we need to do," he said. "We just made too many mistakes missed too many opportunities.".

The Aztecs were defeated 46-13.

But those numbers aren’t as important as the number of players who couldn’t attend practices or the game. SDSU said more than a dozen players skipped a week of practice and the game because of what the school called "medical concerns."

During the news conference, coach Brady Hoke implied the absences were COVID-19-related.

"We didn't have the bodies there, and that's what sets you back as much as anything," he said. "There's no excuses."

SDSU Athletics, the Student Health Center and the county did not respond to questions to confirm whether COVID was involved and whether the problem extends beyond the football team.

Aztec captain Caden McDonald managed to see the bigger picture during the post-game news conference.

"I’m proud of my guys. I’m proud of every single one of these Aztecs that came out here today," he said. "It’s such a blessing to be able to play in the conference championship and to be able to do this with my brothers I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else."

On the plus side, the Aztecs made it to the Frisco Bowl and will play the San Antonio Roadrunners on Dec. 21. It's the Aztecs' 11th bowl appearance in 12 seasons.

KPBS is a service of San Diego State University.