For the first time since November 30, 2019, San Diego State football will have fans in the stands for a home game – even though it is 113 miles from the last place where there was a real crowd. home.
Dignity Health Park in Carson, Calif., Will be the site of the Aztecs’ opener against the New Mexico State Aggies (0-1) on Saturday, September 4 and will be visible on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. .
This will be the first time these teams have met since September 14, 2019. This game in Albuquerque featured a fierce attack from the Aztecs with running backs Jordan Byrd and Chance Bell combining for 39 carries for 234 yards. – six yards per carry – and three touchdowns as Scarlet and Black came away with a 31-10 victory.
That was two years ago, however, and the Aggies have a brand new team under the leadership of head coach Doug Martin, who is in his eighth season with the NMSU. The Aggies have already played their first game in 2021, being run over by the University of Texas El Paso Miners 30-3 on Saturday, August 28.
The Aggies offense is fairly conventional. They often play with as many as three wide receivers on the field, while often entering sets of four receivers. Their recent loss to UTEP used a balanced pass-to-pass ratio, running 34 points games while making 33 passing attempts. This is due to the versatility of their double-threat quarterback – junior Jonah Johnson – who can be found throwing and chasing the ball in any situation.
Head coach Brady Hoke has said stopping the running game is the top priority for the Aztec defense.
“Defensively we have to do a great job against the run,” Hoke said. “Although coach (Doug) Martin likes to throw it a bit.”
The UNMS offense is led by Johnson, who made just nine of his 24 attempted passes against the UTEP, while giving up two interceptions and gaining just 82 yards in the air. Redshirt first-year quarterback Weston Eget also had some playing time against the Miners, completing one of his nine passing attempts for seven yards. The longest achievement of the two quarterbacks was only 16 yards.
Four Aggies received two assists against UTEP, none of which eclipsed more than 31 receiving yards. A controversial non-appeal early in the second quarter cost NMSU a passing touchdown, when junior wide receiver Dominic Gicinto caught a 15-yard pass from Johnson in the back of the end zone, getting his toe within limits. The on-field decision was an incomplete pass and officials did not see enough evidence to overturn the on-field appeal. The Aggies settled for a placement three games later.
Run the game:
Five players had a rushed attempt last week for the Aggies and had 101 yards on 34 attempts – three yards per carry. Redshirt rookie Juwaun Price and junior O’Maury Samuels led the charge with nine carries each for a combined 65 yards. Behind them was quarterback Johnson, who ran the ball twelve times, gaining 31 yards – dropping 15 yards on two sacks – while spitting out a fumble in the first quarter. Weston also ran the ball three times for 13 yards. Quarterbacks got many of their rush attempts on play option sets and rushed out of the shotgun.
The New Mexico state defense leads a 4-4-3 defense and likes to send five defenders to the line of scrimmage. They were also seen executing a Nickel defense against a set of wide-four receivers, as well as 3-4-4 coverage with the corners on press coverage. The NMSU allowed 452 total offensive yards – 249 passing yards and 203 rushing – and 30 points against the UTEP. The Aggies were unable to secure the Miner’s quarterback but snatched two interceptions in the loss.
Leading Aggie’s defense on Saturday, junior linebacker Trevor Brohard made 11 tackles with a tackle for loss. Behind him was first-year linebacker Joshua Ferguson who had eight tackles with two TFLs. Second-year linebacker Dalton Bowels – seven tackles against UTEP – and junior defensive back DJ McCullough each had one interception against the Miners.
Globally: The NMSU are chasing their first fall win since November 23, 2019 – they won a game last winter against Dixie State – and are chasing their first road win since September 22, 2018. Aggies have combined to go 6-20 since their 2018 season, haven’t played a full season since 2019 and have just collapsed at home in which their game on the pitch has shown a lack of discipline in fundamental football. On paper, this game should be an easy win for the Aztecs, but amid all the negativity surrounding the Aggies, Hoke says there is still a lot to plan against the NMSU.
“You look offensive in terms of skills at the wide receiver… and their running backs are both very talented,” Hoke said. “(NMSU) never had an offensive pace, whether it was penalties or ball groping. They never had a chance to pitch.
The Aztecs will also need to prepare for the Aggies’ physical offensive line, which has allowed just three sacks against the UTEP, and has regularly created lanes for the runners. The threat of a strong o-line makes Johnson all the more lethal, giving the double-threat quarterback time to pass or scramble, as well as create lanes for him on play-option games.
The game plan for the Aztecs heading into week one is simple, but Hoke says his biggest playing focus this week will be with special teams.
“Special teams are going to be critical,” Hoke said. “I can’t tell you how many early games are lost because of bad special teams. So this has been a high priority for us. ”