Chuck Long Era Opens as SDSU Begins 84th Season of Football at Home Thursday Night Against UTEP The San Diego State Aztecs (5-7 overall, 4-4/t-4th in the Mountain West Conference in 2005) opens their 84th season of football, 38th at the Division I level and the first under head coach Chuck Long on Thursday, Aug. 31, at Qualcomm Stadium against UTEP (8-4 overall, 5-3/2nd C-USA West Division in 2005). Announced game time is set for 7:30 p.m. PDT and the contest will be televised nationally by CSTV and will also be available on the Internet at goaztecs.com. The game can also be heard up and down the west coast on XX Sports Radio (1090 AM and 105.7 FM in San Diego). Chuck Long, who became San Diego State's 16th head football head coach on Dec. 17, 2005, inherits a team with 17 returning starters from last season's squad which went 5-7. The 2005 Aztecs defeated two of three teams that finished in front of them in the Mountain West (defeated BYU (31-10) and won at Colorado State (30-10)). But San Diego State suffered losses to two of the three teams that finished behind them in the standings (at Air Force (29-41) and at UNLV (10-13). Nonetheless, SDSU ended up .500 in MWC play, with its four league victories coming by an average margin of 15.8 points. The Aztecs, meanwhile, suffered a pair of three-point losses to conference foes (at UNLV and 20th-ranked TCU). San Diego State returns eight starters on the defensive side of the ball, led by senior captains safety Reggie Grigsby and middle linebacker Joe Martin. A young squad a year ago, the unit improved as the season went on and limited opponents to 21 points or less in six of its final nine games. The Aztecs return six starters on offense, led by a pair of junior captains, quarterback Kevin O'Connell and running back Lynell Hamilton. The Aztecs return 96.6 percent of its rushing yardage, 100 percent of its passing yardage and 42.2 percent of its receiving yardage, off a team that scored 102 points in its final three games of last season. Juniors Michael Hughes (punter) and Garrett Palmer (place kicker) provide the Aztecs with one of the best kicking tandems in the country. Hughes averaged 44.8 yards per punt last season and booted 15 balls 50 or more yards in 2005, while Palmer connected on 15-of-17 field goals last season, including four makes from more than 43 yards out. UTEP is coming off consecutive eight-win seasons and has advanced to a bowl game in each of the past two (2004 EV1.net Houston Bowl and 2005 GMAC Bowl). The Miners have won six consecutive regular-season non-conference games dating back to a loss at Arizona State on Sept. 2, 2004. The schedule makers didn't do any favors for a first-year coach. San Diego State's first three opponents went a combined 25-12 last season, with all three teams (UTEP, Wisconsin and Utah) advancing to a bowl game. In addition, all three teams are receiving votes in the preseason Associated Press and coaches polls. GO AZTECS!!!