When I tuned in to view San Diego State’s football game against TCU last week, I wanted to see progress.

When I think of the Aztecs’ game with Utah on Saturday, I expect more.

Like seeing San Diego State leave the field victorious.

The Poinsettia Bowl-bound Aztecs (7-3, 4-2) need an impressive victory over one of the Mountain West Conference’s best teams to make their first winning campaign since 1998 glisten with accomplishment.

Knocking off the No. 25 Utes (8-2, 5-1) would give San Diego State a shot at a 10-win season with UNLV representing the final regular-season contest prior to the Poinsettia Bowl contest against Navy.

Nobody with a properly working mind would have predicted a 10-win season for San Diego State prior to the season.

That there even is a chance of such a season with the calendar showing mid-November is a testament to the fine job second-year head coach Brady Hoke has done. The program was in shambles with no positive direction just two years ago when Chuck Long was coach.

Perhaps you remember this 2008 score: New Mexico 70, San Diego State 7.

Utah is a team that has dominated the Aztecs since the formation of the Mountain West, winning nine of 11 meetings. The last four games have been particularly one-sided with the Utes winning by a combined 162-35.

Two years ago at Qualcomm Stadium, Utah scored 63 points during a 49-point victory.

The recent trend of being noncompetitive against the Utes equates to a major opportunity for the Aztecs, who have more offensive firepower than Utah’s 2010 squad.

Quarterback Ryan Lindley, running back Ronnie Hillman and receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson are one fine foursome. Utah can’t match that, especially with Oceanside High product Jordan Wynn struggling at quarterback the past few weeks.

Regardless, Utah will be a great test for San Diego State.

The Utes were undefeated just two weeks ago prior to being routed by TCU. Then they were drubbed by a mediocre Notre Dame squad last week.

It figures that Kyle Whittingham’s squad will be hell-bent on turning things around against San Diego State.

I saw what I wanted to see in the TCU game. When the Aztecs were losing 37-14 in the later stages of the third quarter, the contest was headed toward being another one of those major routs the Horned Frogs have been regularly inflicting on San Diego State.

But instead of rolling over like the Long-coached Aztecs had done during 2006 (52-0) and 2008 (41-7) visits to Fort Worth, San Diego State fashioned a terrific comeback and ended up losing by just 40-35.

A five-point loss despite a stretch of 40 minutes without an offensive first down? That is not the type of San Diego State squad we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

These Aztecs showed plenty of fight.

I was at the 2006 game in Fort Worth and it was the most uncompetitive sporting event I have ever covered. The Aztecs set a school-record for futility with 87 yards of total offense while allowing 624 yards and having two punts blocked.

Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson took mercy on the Aztecs and pulled quarterback Jeff Ballard (five touchdown passes) early in the third quarter with the score 45-0. TCU could have scored two more touchdowns in the last five minutes but the dogs had been called off.

With 3:20 to play, TCU had first-and-goal at the San Diego State 9-yard line and purposefully took a delay of game penalty to move the ball back five yards. Then the Horned Frogs ran four straight plays into the center of the line and gave the ball back to the Aztecs.

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach would have taken the easy 66 points and thought nothing of it.

There was another beatdown last season when San Diego State lost to Utah in Salt Lake City. The Utes led 38-0 at halftime before calling off the dogs, elks and yaks and winning the contest 38-7.

But looking for progress Saturday against Utah isn’t acceptable. The Utes aren’t on the same level as TCU.

I’m seeking a victory. San Diego State has a nice upset win over then-ranked Air Force to its credit, but we need to see more.

The Aztecs can show they have truly turned the corner by beating Utah.


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