Aztec football to battle it out against Bulldogs

by Ethan Bailey

The San Diego State Aztecs will face the Fresno State University Bulldogs at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Coming off of two consecutive Mountain West Conference wins against University of Nevada, Reno and the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Aztecs will look to prove themselves against the No. 17 ranked Bulldogs. Fresno State is so far undefeated and has a 3-0 record against Mountain West Conference teams. During the past two Aztec victories, the running game has been a consistent and dominant focal point for the offense. Freshman running back Donnel Pumphrey had impressive performances against Nevada and the Air Force, combining for 229 rushing yards and two touchdowns while junior running back Adam Muema rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns during the same span.

The Aztecs will look to continue using the ground game to take pressure off of junior quarterback Quinn Kaehler, who has steadily improved since becoming the starter in Week 3.

The Aztecs’ resurgent running game is a positive sign for two reasons: First, it gives the team both the ability to control the clock when protecting a lead and to score from anywhere on the field with Pumphrey’s quickness, as shown on his 72-yard touchdown run against Nevada.  Second, it allows head coach Rocky Long to play the style of football he wants, which employs a stout rushing attack backed up by solid defense. While Kaehler has played admirably as the starting quarterback, the strength of this offense resides in the running game. Fans should expect to see a healthy dose of Pumphrey and Muema early and often against Fresno State.

The Bulldogs enter Week 7 with an average of 384.2 pass yards per game, enough to rank them No. 4 in the nation in this category. They also average 45.8 points per game, the fifth-highest mark in the nation. Senior quarterback Derek Carr has thrown for 2,276 yards with 23 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in six games this season. By contrast, Kaehler has thrown for 1,231 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Edge: Bulldogs

            The Aztecs’ secondary has stepped up during the past two victories. Early in the season, SDSU’s young and inexperienced cornerbacks were beaten on many deep balls, but those issues seem to have been addressed. Sophomore defensive back Damontae Kazee and senior defensive back Nat Berhe have caused trouble for opposing offenses by intercepting passes and recovering fumbles.

Senior linebacker Nick Tenhaeff has been big in stopping the run for the Aztecs, and junior linebacker Josh Gavert forced a fumble in the game against Nevada, which led to a score for SDSU.  The Aztecs have given up an average of 32.7 points per game this season compared to 30.2 for the Bulldogs.

While this stat indicates the Bulldogs have a better defense, SDSU has arguably played better-quality opponents thus far in the season. Expect the Aztec secondary to force a key turnover from Fresno State late in the game.

Edge: Aztecs

The Aztecs have performed well so far against MWC teams, which can arguably be attributed to the level of competition the team faced with Eastern Illinois, Ohio State and Oregon State University early in the season. While Fresno State is undefeated entering Week 8, the Bulldogs have yet to face a nationally ranked team.

Edge: Aztecs

            Fans should expect a high-scoring game between SDSU and Fresno State. It will be difficult for the Aztec defense to contain Carr and the rest of Fresno State’s passing attack for 60 minutes. The Aztecs must bring their A-game (pun intended), especially defensively, if they want to beat No. 17 Fresno State.

Prediction Bulldogs 34 Aztecs 41

Photo by Monica Linzmeier.

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