SDSU cornerback Darren Hall in a recent practice. The Aztecs begin their delayed football season Saturday. Photo credit: Screen shot, @AztecFB, via Twitter

San Diego State University’s football team faces two unusual circumstances this year – the ongoing pandemic – and its potential effect on their season – and being forced into a home away from home.

That would be Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, where the Aztecs open their 2020 season against UNLV at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

With construction underway on the Mission Valley stadium site, SDSU’s long-time home, the team will play this season and next in Carson.

Despite the upheaval, quarterback Carson Baker said his teammates have been able to put in the practice to prepare for Saturday and the rest of the season.

“I think we’re right where we want to be,” the Helix High alum told XTRA 1360 Wednesday.

It won’t necessarily all be smooth sailing though. The eight-game Mountain West conference schedule already has been disrupted not by COVID-19 positives among players, but in the community surrounding a university. New Mexico had been set to travel to face Colorado State, but officials canceled the game on Tuesday.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned,” said head coach Brady Hoke, who added that he and his staff go over pandemic safety measures with the team everyday.

For now, though, SDSU’s games will go on as planned. The team returns 16 starters, including eight on defense, where they stood out last year. Nine Aztec players on defense have made at least nine career starts, led by senior Tariq Thompson with 39.

Seventeen Aztecs received preseason accolades, with nine, including Thompson, sophomore kicker Matt Araiza, junior defensive end Keshawn Banks, junior running backs/returner Jordan Byrd and junior cornerback Darren Hall, on watch lists for national honors and/or named first-team all-MW.

The program also named two seniors, including Chula Vista native Dominic Gudino, as captains for the 2020 season. Dwayne Johnson Jr., of Murrieta, also received the honor.

Gudino, the Aztecs’ starting center, has played in 24 games, highlighted by 16 starts. As a junior in 2019, the Olympian High School alumnus was expected to redshirt but jumped into the starting lineup for an injured Daishawn Dixon. He saw action in six of 13 games last year.

Johnson, meanwhile, enters his second year as a starter after garnering preseason second-team all-MW accolades by Athlon Sports to go with a third-team distinction by Phil Steele Magazine.

As a junior in 2019, Johnson started all 13 games, receiving honorable mention all-MW recognition after posting 92 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.

Saturday’s game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, as well as the Aztecs Radio Network via 101.5 KGB-FM and XTRA 1360 AM.

San Diego State is coming off a 10-3 season in 2019, culminating in a 48-11 win over Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl.

– Staff reports 

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