The Daily Aztec

Football fights with Fresno with potential Mountain West championship berth at stake

Senior+running+back+Rashaad+Penny+leaps+over+Boise+State+defenders+during+the+Aztecs+31-14+loss+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.14%2C+at+SDCCU+Stadium.+
Senior running back Rashaad Penny leaps over Boise State defenders during the Aztecs 31-14 loss on Saturday, Oct.14, at SDCCU Stadium.

Senior running back Rashaad Penny leaps over Boise State defenders during the Aztecs 31-14 loss on Saturday, Oct.14, at SDCCU Stadium.

Kelly Smiley

Kelly Smiley

Senior running back Rashaad Penny leaps over Boise State defenders during the Aztecs 31-14 loss on Saturday, Oct.14, at SDCCU Stadium.

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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Homecoming and rivalry weeks collide on Saturday, Oct. 21,  when San Diego State football hosts its nemesis from the north, Fresno State.

The teams will be battling it out for possession of the Old Oil Can Trophy, which SDSU (6-1, 2-1 MW) will try to retain possession of for the third consecutive year.

Fresno (4-2, 3-0 MW) comes into the game on a three-game winning streak, which has the Aztecs looking up at them in the Mountain West Conference standings, and a victory for either team would put them on the inside track to the conference championship game on Dec. 2.

SDSU head coach Rocky Long said that while this game is important, he is not going to treat it differently than any other left on the schedule.

“It’s an important game, but it’s not going to make or break our season, and it’s no more important than next week’s game,” Long said. 

Momentum may be on the side of the visitors, with Fresno coming in fresh off of a 38-0 victory against the University of New Mexico.

The Bulldogs have performed well under the guidance of first year head coach Jeff Tedford, who has seemingly turned around a program that finished 1-11 last season and lost its final 10 games.

“I think that him and his staff have done a great job of coaching,” Long said of Tedford. “When you watch them on film those are very talented players that have gotten a new lease on life.”

Fresno’s only two losses this season have come on the road against Top 10 ranked opponents in the University of Alabama and the University of Washington.

The Aztecs meanwhile will be attempting to rebound from their first loss of the season, a 31-14 home defeat suffered this past weekend against Boise State University.

SDSU offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said that despite the Aztecs loss, he expects the team to come out ready to go against Fresno.

“I think our guys will really respond,” Horton said. “You know they like winning, they’re used to winning, and that’s not going to disappear.”

SDSU is led on offense by redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman, and senior running back Rashaad Penny, who is second in the nation in all purpose yards with 1395, and third in the nation in rushing with 1046.

Penny rushed for only 53 yards against Boise, his lowest output of the season, and will face a Fresno team this weekend which ranks second in the MWC in rush defense, allowing 107.5 yards per contest.

Contributing to the Bulldogs defense is sophomore linebacker Jeffrey Allison, who leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 48, and junior defensive lineman Emeka Ndoh, who leads the team with three sacks.

“Linebackers are big thick guys, run well,” Horton said. “They always have good skill guys, guys in the back, and guys who can run.”

On offense Fresno brings a balanced rushing and passing threat, and have had a tendency this season to go for big plays through the air.

During their win over New Mexico last weekend, Bulldogs junior wide receivers KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan had receptions of 75 and 70 yards, respectively.

“They’ve got a couple guys that they put them on both sides and throw it deep,” SDSU defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said. “They’re going to stack the receivers and give you some concepts that try and get our aggressive DB’s to jump routes so they can get it over the top.”

The player throwing them the ball will be junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion, who passed for 299 yards and three touchdowns against New Mexico, and has emerged as the Bulldogs starter in the past three games, after starting the season behind sophomore Chason Virgil.

“They’ve decided who their quarterback’s gonna be,” Gonzales said. “He throws the deep ball really well, I think their team is playing with a lot of confidence.”

McMaryion added a 57-yard rush in Fresno’s win over New Mexico, and is an additional rushing threat alongside freshman running back Ronnie Rivers, who has shared ball carrying duties this season with freshman Jordan Mims and sophomore Josh Hokit.

“They have a physical style running game, they try and pound the ball,” Gonzales said. “They’re gonna get the full back down run power try and see if they can outmuscle you.”

Historically, SDSU has played fairly evenly with Fresno, and hold an advantage of 29 victories to 23.

The Aztecs defeated the Bulldogs on the road last season by a score 17-3. The first meeting between the schools was in 1923, a 12-2 victory for the Aztecs.

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