The San Diego State Aztecs (5-3, 4-0 MW) sit atop the Mountain West Conference standings and roll into Hughes Stadium Saturday to take on the Rams (3-4, 1-2 MW), and the Aztecs bring an imposing defense into town for as many weeks.
Head coach Mike Bobo knows his offense has seen this style of defense before, and is optimistic that it will help out come Saturday.
“It’s identification … this is our fourth game in a row of playing a three-down team. Now they’re a lot different than those guys, but it is still a three-down concept of identification … so I’m glad that this is the fourth week of that,” Bobo said.
The Rams were able to get a bit of a jump on preparing for the Aztecs and their tough defense during the bye week. SDSU surrenders only 18.9 points per game, scoring 27.4 points per game on the other end.
“It was good, but it hasn’t made it any easier because they are good,” Bobo said. “Schemes are one thing but it’s how you play those schemes and they play their schemes very well, they do a really good job at it.”
Execution of schemes was not the only thing that Bobo had high praises for in talking about his team’s preparation for the Aztecs, the coach was also high on SDSU’s ability to dominate up front.
“We’ve got to realize that we can’t just show up on Saturday because this is a very good football team that has won four games in a row in conference and dominated physically at the line of scrimmage on both sides,” Bobo said. “It’s going to take our best effort to have a chance to win this football game.”
Senior offensive lineman Sam Carlson knows this is a big week for the offensive line to do their job upfront.
“It’s going to be huge,” Carlson said. “We need to allow (the quarterbacks) to be comfortable back there, it’s hard to do your job when you’re getting hit right and left so we need to do what we do and they will have a great week this week.”
If the offensive line does their job Saturday the quarterbacks will be able to do their jobs, which means the standout receiving corps for the Rams can do theirs as well.
“If we do our job as an offensive line we are going to be able to move the ball, we have the best wide receiver corps in the nation, in my opinion, so if we can protect them, we are going to get the ball down the field,” Carlson said.
SDSU is a team that likes to play man-coverage on defense and they are confident in their ability to do so. Bobo also pointed to this when discussing what the Aztecs do well.
The opportunity to break free from a defender and hit on a big play has senior wide out Joe Hansley amped for the match up.
“As wide outs you kind of take press man-to-man coverage as disrespect, that’s just kind of how we see it so when we get press coverage we get excited to go out and beat them,” Hansley said.
If the Rams are able to put up points early and often against SDSU they will also be taking the Aztecs out of what they like to do – a strong commitment to the run game and working play-action out of that.
This makes the execution for the Rams offense even more critical this week.
“SDSU, they do a great job as a team of putting up a lot of points, and their defense does a good job of stopping teams,” Hansley said. “It will be really important to finish when we have opportunites, especially in the red zone and we haven’t been the best about that in some of the previous games.”
This week’s opportunity to take down a top MW team and pull even at 2-2 in conference play to start off the second half of the season is a big one for the Bobo and the Rams.
“This is the second half of our season, this is the first game of that season and we need to do what we’ve been doing week in and week out and that’s get better and put ourselves in a position to win on Saturday,” Bobo said.
Collegian Football Reporter Geoff Huebner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Huebnermedia93.