Ball control is the key for SDSU football against UC Berkeley

by Anthony Reclusado, Senior Staff Writer

How quickly the tables can be turned in college football.

It was just last week that San Diego State was a heavy favorite heading into its matchup against visiting University of San Diego.

Fast forward a week and now the SDSU is the underdog heading into a hostile environment when it heads north to take on UC Berkeley.

However, unlike the Toreros against the Aztecs, SDSU will line up across from Cal with a fighting chance.

In fact, the Aztecs will take the field with arguably one of the most ideal units to take on the high-octane offense the Bears employ.

It’s no secret that Cal head coach Sonny Dykes loves to air the ball out and with a quarterback like junior Jared Goff, it’s completely understandable.

“Probably the thing that is most impressive about (Cal) is their quarterback,” SDSU head coach Rocky Long said. “He is as accurate a thrower as I have ever seen. He gets rid of the ball quickly, he reads the coverages really well and he is right on the money every single time.”

In only two seasons behind center, Goff has thrown for 7,481 yards and 53 touchdowns and guided the Bears to the 10th-ranked scoring offense last season.

The dominance through the air continued last week, as Goff threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns in only one half of play against Grambling State, a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, which is the same division USD plays in.

To put it simply, in Goff’s two years at the helm, he’s piloted an aerial attack that has the Blue Angels taking notes.

Of course, Goff could not do this without his talented receiving corps, including senior Bryce Treggs and junior Kenny Lawler.

Not to be forgotten amongst the aerial barrage of Goff and Co. is senior running back Daniel Lasco, who rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

But now the Bears are faced with an Aztec defense that excels in defending the pass and can match them strength versus strength.

Where the Bears utilize the spread offense in hopes to find a mismatch or force another defensive back to come into the game at the expense of the rushing defense, the Aztecs have the personal out of their base 3-3-5 defense to prevent giving Cal an edge.

The Aztecs, however, will be without redshirt-sophomore Warrior (safety) Trey Lomax who suffered a broken knee cap against USD.

Fellow sophomore Kameron Kelly, who was suspended for the season opener, will fill in for Lomax. He missed the final six games last season due to a leg surgery for compartment syndrome.

“Kam Kelly will start in that position this week,” Long said. “He is a talented athlete, but he has not played very much, so there will be an experience drop-off there. But he is taller and faster.”

Coincidentally, the best defense against a potent offense as Cal’s is the Aztecs offense. Specifically, the time of possession.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if SDSU offensive coordinator Jeff Horton calls three straight rushes or high-percentage short passes to keep the clock running, which keeps Cal’s offense off the field.

“Our offense is kind of built for games like this,” Long said. “If we can run the ball and get first downs, their offense has a really hard time scoring when they are sitting on the bench. So if our offense can control the ball and keep it away from them, it allows us to get a little rest on defense.”

Defensively, the Bears have been as bad as the offense has been good since Dykes took over the program.

Last season the defense gave up 61 touchdowns – 42 through the air – and allowed 511.8 yards per game.

One game into the season and the defense has shown signs of improvement, limiting Grambling State to only 297 yards and forcing five turnovers. But, that was against a spread FCS offense.

The Aztecs want to pound the ball inside with the two-headed attack of junior running back Donnel Pumphrey and senior running back Chase Price.

Either way this will be a great test for both the Aztec offensive lineman, who struggled against USD, and for the Cal defensive lineman to go against a higher-quality opponent.

This game will come down to whether the SDSU offense can extend drives to keep Cal’s offense off the field and finish with points on the board.

If the Aztec offense is outscored by its own defense once again, then this game can be chalked up as a loss.