The Daily Aztec

SDSU heads to Tempe to battle Arizona State

Senior fullback Nick Bawden (15) leads SDSU onto the field before its season opener vs. UC Davis.

Senior fullback Nick Bawden (15) leads SDSU onto the field before its season opener vs. UC Davis.

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Senior fullback Nick Bawden (15) leads SDSU onto the field before its season opener vs. UC Davis.

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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San Diego State football heads to the desert on Sat., Sept. 9, where it will face off in a week two matchup against Arizona State University. This will be the 11th meeting between the two teams, and the Aztecs will be looking to come away with a victory for the first time against the Sun Devils.

Both SDSU and Arizona State are coming off of season opening victories, after defeating UC Davis and New Mexico State, respectively. The team’s trended in different directions last season, with the Aztecs finishing the year 11-3 to go along with a Mountain West Conference championship, while the the Sun Devils sputtered to a 5-7 record while winning only two games in Pac-12 conference play.

With that said, it is a new year, and for the Aztecs to come away with the road win against a Pac-12 opponent they will need to play a complete game on both sides of the ball.

On offense, SDSU will be relying on another big game from senior running back Rashaad Penny, who ran for a team-high 197 yards on 21 carries in the team’s week one victory against UCD. On defense it will be important for the Aztecs to exploit the Sun Devils inability to protect their quarterback, senior Manny Wilkins, who was able to throw for 300 yards against New Mexico State, despite taking seven sacks.

SDSU Head coach Rocky Long said ASU’s offensive scheme can cause problems for any defense.

“They’re a spread football team, they’ve got great skill at wide receiver, they’ve got great skill at running back and they have an outstanding quarterback,” Long said. “They put pressure on you wherever you want them to put pressure on you. If you have enough guys close to the box to stop the run, they’re going to throw it. If you have too many guys in coverage, they’re going to run it.”

Aztecs junior defensive back Noble Hall, who recorded four total tackles against Davis, believes his defense will show up against a Sun Devils side which only ranked 92nd out of 128 D-1 teams in 2016 total offense.

“I think it’ll be a good week for us when it comes to pass pressure,” Hall said. “Coach changed the defense up a little bit so we get more looks to get back there. I think it’ll be good for us this weekend.”

Long views the game as an opportunity to find out if his young squad remains able to compete against Pac-12 competition, after the Aztecs defeated UC Berkeley 45-40 last season. This year SDSU is returning only 12 starters — five on offense and seven on defense — so the game could be a strong indicator of what to expect out of next week’s home matchup against No. 14 ranked Stanford.

It’ll be an opportunity for us to see where we are with that kind of competition level,” Long said. “I’m sure our players are looking forward to it.”

SDSU senior wide receiver Quest Truxton is among those eager to show the team still belongs, and said he is motivated by the opportunity to silence any doubt outside of the locker room.

We don’t really care about hype, good or bad,” Truxton said. “For us, we just go out there and compete and we’re always trying to prove ourselves. Proving ourselves right is a lot more important than proving other people wrong.”

ASU Head coach Todd Graham, for his part, is not taking the Aztecs lightly, and spoke highly of his team’s competition.

“They’re going to play great defense, they’re going to do a great job in special teams, and they’re going to pound the football, “Graham said. “Obviously a big time challenge for us. You look at their defense, you look at special teams, offense, they know what their identity is and they’re pretty ingrained in it and do a great job with it.”

The game will kick off from Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday at 8 p.m. and will be shown on the Pac-12 network.

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