The Coast News Group

Jay Paris: While the Bolts’ season is in the gutter, SDSU goes bowling

If your football stockings are hung with care, take a peek.

The one marked “Chargers” comes with a lump of coal.

The one labeled “San Diego State” comes with a big ol’ Rocky.

For the latter we shout, “Hallelujah” for a program getting it right.

The Chargers have dropped two of three, are tobogganing toward another last-place finish and the never-ending stadium drama is just that.

The Aztecs, under coach Rocky Long, have won consecutive Mountain West titles with a GPS pointed up Interstate 15 and next week’s Las Vegas Bowl.

Houston awaits in Sin City and there’s no problem with that.

“I get the opinion sometimes that the media doesn’t realize how good this program’s been for the last five, probably six years,’’ Long said. “Considering the number of years before that this program’s struggled, I think that everybody involved in our program is very happy and excited that we’ve turned into a competitive football program around here where you can win championships.”

Curious why that brings shoulder shrugs to many, considering where the Aztecs (10-3) have been. SDSU produced nine wins from 2006-08, with its alumni and students eventually growing numb.

So maybe this Aztecs’ season, in which they were ranked twice in the top 25, didn’t require that pinch-me moment. It wasn’t the dream year in which the gutty little Aztecs sprinted through an undefeated season to get a seat at the big-boy bowl table.

Instead a spotless season drew ink with a loss at South Alabama and then a game-winning 2-point conversion that failed in Wyoming, and then getting walloped by Colorado State.

But negative town takes you just there. In a year in which the local NFL bunch delivered angst, it was the local colleges showing the light.

Don’t forget what coach Dale Lindsay did with the University of San Diego. Lindsay, the linebackers’ coach on the Chargers’ Super Bowl team, produced the school’s most successful season ever.

Take that, Jim Harbaugh.

Don’t yank anything away from SDSU, either.

“I mean, we’ve either tied or won the championship three out of the last five years,’’ said Long, with the Aztecs bound for their seventh straight bowl date. “I’d like to know, other than Alabama, who else has done that?’’

Long hasn’t done it alone. The Aztecs swept the MW awards with Donnel Pumphrey (offense), Damontae Kazee (defense) and Rashaad Penny (special teams) rising above the rest.

“The key is always the players,’’ Long said. “It’s always the athletes.’’

True. But we applaud Long and his staff for showing the way. They’ve developed a culture where in their galaxy, hard work is the standard.

“We may not get all the five-star guys or four-star guys, but you know what, we get a bunch of guys here that want to be successful,’’ tight end David Wells said. “They want to play and they have that drive in them that they want to do great things here.’’

Usually, that means socking it to their opponents.

Follow Jay Paris on twitter at jparis_sports. His book “Game of My Life Chargers” is available at area bookstores and on