San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

No. 21 takes on Fresno State Bulldogs in the Battle For the Old Oil Can

Andrew Finley
Senior Jalil Lecky strikes a pose during the game against Air Force.

After a huge win at Air Force, the San Diego State Aztecs (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West Conference) will try to keep their historic streak going as they welcome the Fresno State Bulldogs (6-2, 3-1 MWC) on Saturday, Oct. 30.

Last week the Aztecs faced what seemed like their toughest challenge of the year up to that point — that might be better served to describe this weekend’s matchup against the Bulldogs.

Historically, SDSU has routed Fresno State in this in-state rivalry game dubbed the “Battle for the Old Oil Can.” However — after winning six of the last ten meetings — the Bulldogs have clearly stated they are tired of being the little brother and would love to reclaim the Old Oil Can trophy after SDSU captured it in their 17-7 victory over the Bulldogs in 2019.

SDSU head coach Brady Hoke understands the magnitude of this game saying, “This is a really good football team… This is a rivalry game. It’s an important game. Right now we’ve got the old oil can and we’d like to keep it”

After back-to-back wins, Fresno State is entering this game confident and with a win over UCLA this year and a tight game against then-seventh ranked Oregon, the Bulldogs will likely not be intimidated by SDSU despite their impressive season thus far.


Just one week after facing the nation’s top rushing attack, the Aztecs’ defense will be tested to the other extreme as Fresno State boasts the highest gaining and second-highest scoring offense in the MWC, as well as boasting one of the nation’s most productive passing games. However, unlike some of their passing-leader compadres, the Bulldogs have not forgotten about the ground game, featuring a balanced attack with a 44% to 56% run-to-pass split.

The air attack is led by senior quarterback Jake Haener — who currently leads all MW passers in yards, touchdowns and efficiency rating. Haener’s favorite target this year has been star receiver junior Jalen Cropper. Cropper is second in the conference in receptions, sixth in yards, and leads all pass-catchers in the nation in receiving touchdowns. Cropper also has a 51-yard passing touchdown for good measure. 

Fresno State’s offense starts through the air and the Aztecs’ defense understands they are going to have to slow down Haener.

“Haener is accurate. We got to disrupt him. We got to make life hard for him” Hoke said.

Fresno State’s ground game isn’t anything to write home about but it also shouldn’t be dismissed. Their 138.9 yards per game is only seventh in the MWC but their 4.1 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns are both good for fourth in the conference. The rushing attack is led by senior running back Ronnie Rivers — whose 25 receptions also makes him the third most targeted receiver for the Bulldogs. However, after a lower leg injury sidelined Rivers in the first quarter last week against Nevada it is unclear if he will be cleared to go on Saturday. Senior running back Jordan Mims rushed for 134 yards, 5.8 yards per carry and a touchdown in relief of Rivers.

Regardless of which back gets the start the Aztecs defense can’t overlook the running threat.

“Both those two are very talented,” Hoke said, “They both can stick their foot in the ground. They both can accelerate. When you have two good backs like that then you got to look at the offensive line.”

As good as the Bulldogs’ offense has been, they are not perfect. Fresno State is eighth in red zone scoring percentage. This is largely because they have a conference-high five turnovers in the red zone.


In addition to their conference-best offense, Fresno State is backed up by a respectable defense. Their sixth-ranked passing defense and fourth-ranked rushing defense give the Bulldogs the fifth-best total defense in the conference. Fresno State is allowing 20.9 points per game which is the fourth-best in the MWC. The Bulldogs have been adept at getting after the opposing team’s quarterback and getting opponents off the field on third-down — they rank third in the conference at both. 

Fresno State’s defense is okay but it doesn’t scare anybody, and it doesn’t need to. The Bulldogs’ offense this year has done all the heavy lifting. Up to this point, if the defense can get a few stops, it has been enough for the Bulldogs’ offense to out-score their opponents.

Just because Fresno State’s defense isn’t the 2011 Crimson Tide doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly.

 “We can’t go in there thinking these guys are just going to roll over for us. They’re good players, they’re hard players” SDSU senior tight end Daniel Bellinger said, “Each team is going to give us their biggest shot. So we know that Fresno’s going to come to play.”


The Aztecs enter this week as one-point favorites at home. While they have earned the right to be favored in this matchup, it is by no means a guarantee. The Aztecs will have to find a way to slow down the Bulldogs’ offense in order to keep pace. This means they need to take advantage of Fresno State’s, at times, sloppy play in the red zone. If the Aztecs can steal a possession or two, run the ball and keep Haener and company on the sideline, they will be well on their way to 8-0 and keeping the Old Oil Can at SDSU.

About the Contributor
Andrew Finley, '21-22 Assistant Sports Editor
Andrew Finley is 22 years old and was born and raised in Ramona, Calif. where he resides today. He is a junior who transferred from Grossmont College in fall 2020 with an associate's degree in journalism. During that time, Finley was an assistant football coach for his alma mater Ramona High School. He was hired straight out of high school as the youngest assistant coach on the staff. Finley is now an undergraduate journalism student with aspirations of being a professional sports reporter/analyst once he graduates.
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
No. 21 takes on Fresno State Bulldogs in the Battle For the Old Oil Can