Aztecs welcome in Utah State, high-powered offense to open Mountain West play

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Aztecs welcome in Utah State, high-powered offense to open Mountain West play

SDSU football is among the many programs across the state of California impacted by SB 206.

SDSU football is among the many programs across the state of California impacted by SB 206.

Kareem Jones

SDSU football is among the many programs across the state of California impacted by SB 206.

Kareem Jones

Kareem Jones

SDSU football is among the many programs across the state of California impacted by SB 206.

by Aaron Tolentino, Sports Editor

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San Diego State football, for the second week in a row, will play the Aggies.

But this time it won’t be against New Mexico State, who the Aztecs handedly defeated 31-10 on the road last Saturday.

It won’t be against New Mexico State who came into its matchup against SDSU ranked as the 127th scoring offense (8.5 points per game), 130th and last among FBS teams in total defense (610.5 yards allowed per game) and scoring defense (60 points allowed per game).

Instead, this Aggies team, Utah State, come into SDCCU Stadium on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against the Aztecs (3-0) as the second-ranked team in the nation in total offense (656.5 yards per game).

Utah State (1-1) lost to ACC opponent Wake Forest by a score of 38-35 but followed it up with a 62-7 drubbing of Stony Brook.

The Aggies have a high-powered offense and score a lot of points – ranking 13th in points per game (48.5) and third in passing yards per game (404.0).

SDSU head coach Rocky Long offered his initial thoughts on Utah State.

“They’re averaging 48 points a game, and they’re averaging over 650 yards of total offense a game,” Long said. “I’d say they’re pretty good.”

Utah State’s offense is powered by its ability to score points through the air (93 pass attempts versus 73 rush attempts), and junior quarterback Jordan Love has a lot to do with that. 

The Aztec defense will look to stop the 2018 All-Mountain West Second Team selection, who has thrown for 710 yards and four touchdowns on 70% completion – along with three interceptions.

Long said the key is to keep the ball away from Love and the offense.

“The best thing we can do is keep the ball on offense,” Long said. “The more he’s not out there, the less chance he has to hurt you.”

Long added what makes Love such an offensive threat.

“He throws the ball very accurately with very little motion,” Long said. “It looks like he’s not even throwing it at all, but he can throw 50 yards right on the money. He’s a great, big, strong, tall guy that can run with the ball when he has to.”

The SDSU secondary will have its work cut out this Saturday having to defend a dynamic, pass-heavy offense, but the defensive line will also have to make Love uncomfortable.

“(Defensive backs) got to be on tight coverage,” Long said. “But we also got to get pressure on the quarterback. DBs can’t cover them forever.”

The good thing about going up against a pass-first offense is the Aztec secondary will have its opportunity to make plays on the ball.

SDSU sophomore cornerback Darren Hall said he is ready to have passes thrown in his direction.

“It gives plenty of opportunities to make plays this week,” Hall said. “The ball will be in the air a lot, so if the ball comes my way, I’ll try to make a play on it. If not, we’ll try to break it up, intercept it, force a fumble – just make a play on the ball.”

Hall and Love go back as both natives from Southern California: Love is from Bakersfield and Hall is from Rancho Cucamonga, which are about two hours away from each other. 

Hall remembers going up against Love in 7-on-7 competition during their high school days and knows what kind of threat Love can be.

“I’ve seen him play before,” Hall said. “I know he has game. We just got to go out there and play our game and try to disguise our defense – make him have some bad reads.”

Offensively, the Aztecs are coming off a signature performance from their running game. Sophomore running backs Chance Bell and Jordan Byrd had career days last Saturday in which Bell had 116 yards and a touchdown while Byrd totaled 128 yards and two touchdowns.

With junior Chase Jasmin and senior Juwan Washington battling injuries, young players such as Byrd and Bell were forced to step up in the running game, and they did.

Byrd is now just getting used to the defensive attention.

“It’s kind of weird hearing the defense scream ‘15! 15!’ and everybody starts shifting,” Byrd said. “It’s a little different, but I’m liking it.” 

Whether it’s the running game or the passing game, the Aztecs look to keep the chains moving and keep Utah State’s high-scoring offense off the field.

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