Aztecs must Capitalize on Poor Run Defense

by publicationarchive

After yet another gut-wrenching loss against a national powerhouse, the San Diego State football team is looking to shake off its 24-21 defeat to Michigan and set its sights on rebounding strong and building some momentum heading into Mountain West Conference play. The effort to get back in the saddle will continue 6 p.m. Saturday against the University of Nevada-Reno in what will be the Aztecs’ final non-conference game of the season. Although the Wolfpack isn’t nearly as talented a team as the Wolverines, SDSU cannot afford to overlook Saturday’s match up, as the outcome of the game will definitely set the tone heading into conference play. UNR is coming off two huge wins – 57-9 over Sacramento State and 31-13 over Buffalo – and clearly has some momentum in its corner. With the way the Mountain West Conference is improving, a win against UNR will be imperative for the revenge-seeking Aztecs. Yes, SDSU showed it can hang with the big boys, but it doesn’t matter because the end result was a tally in the loss column. Taking the frustration of the loss and converting it into motivation to win against the Wolfpack will ultimately determine the outcome of the game. One thing is for sure: If the Aztecs drown in their own self-pity from last week’s loss, it could be a long night for head coach Tom Craft and Co. Here’s a look at some of the match ups that will go down Saturday. When the Aztecs pass The Wolfpack have not allowed a quarterback to accumulate 101 yards passing this season, largely because linebackers Jeremy Engstrom and Paul Tagatauli have the ability to drop back into coverage and pick off intermediate routes. Free safety Keono and cornerback Roderick Stallings lead the team in passes deflected and have given opposing quarterbacks a tough time. With the way wideouts Jeff Webb and Robert Ortiz have been performing, look for SDSU to be the first to crack the 101-yard passing mark by a long shot. Dlugolecki should find a nice comfort zone as playing at “The Q” is sure to present a much more welcoming environment than “The Big House.” Advantage: Aztecs When the Aztecs run Horrendous is the only word that can accurately describe UNR’s run-defense. The unit has surrendered an average of 175.3 ypg, including a 33-carry, 257-yard performance by Louisiana Tech running back Ryan Moats. Part of the reason the Wolfpack have given up so few passing yards is because of their inability to stop the run. With sophomore running back Lynell Hamilton expected to return to action after missing the Aztecs first two games, expect the SDSU backfield to have a huge day. According to Craft, Hamilton will get 15 to 18 touches while junior Michael Franklin — who has been a very capable replacement — should handle the rest of the duties. Advantage: Aztecs When the Wolfpack pass UNR quarterback Jeff Rowe has been a big part of the Wolfpack’s recent success and heads into Saturday’s game with six touchdowns and just one interception under his belt. Rowe has averaged 216 yards and two touchdowns per game and has made very few mistakes thus far. Although he hasn’t necessarily been a big numbers quarterback, Rowe thrives off efficiency and making minimal mistakes. His main target has been wide receiver Nichirel Flowers, who has averaged 114 ypg and is tied with fellow wideouts Caleb Spencer and Dell McGee for most receiving touchdowns with two. Flowers could present a threat to an Aztec secondary that has surrendered 105 yards to the opposing team’s No. 1 wideout. Advantage: Wolfpack When the Wolfpack run The Wolfpack have taken the three-headed monster approach in their ground game and so far, it has worked. With Chance Kretschmer as the leader of the pack, along with tailbacks B.J. Mitchell and Drew Robinson, the three have a combined average of six yards per carry and have racked up 567 yards through three games. But they haven’t faced a defense with the east-west speed of SDSU’s linebackers and should find little daylight Saturday. Expect the Wolfpack to gain most of their yardage through the air. Advantage: Aztecs – Kourosh Safavi