On Saturday, October 7th, the San Diego State Aztecs will travel to Las Vegas to play the UNLV Rebels in a game that, given the tragic events in that city, will be an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved.
In this piece, we will try to focus on the field, but there’s no denying that everyone around the country has a soft spot for the Rebels, and that’s understandable.
So without further ado, let’s try to identify which factors could turn the game one way or the other.
Aztecs on defense.
1. Cut the penalties:
Last Saturday against NIU, the Aztecs came very close to losing their first game of the year. One of the main themes throughout that game was the fact that the Aztecs kept giving away first downs via penalties, especially personal fouls. I think coach Long emphasized cutting mistakes during the week, but it remains to be seen if the players can execute on Saturday night. Remember, there will be a lot of emotions in Vegas on Saturday, so it will be up to players to keep their emotions in check and just go out and play ball.
2. Contain Lexington Thomas:
This year, SDSU has already faced a top RB when they played Stanford. This week, they will face another daunting task in UNLV’s Lexington Thomas. The junior running back has been one of the most productive players in the conference. So far this season he has rushed for 571 yards and nine touchdowns on just 68 carries, so look for the defensive game plan to be built around stopping the run and forcing QB Armani Rodgers to beat them.
Aztecs on offense:
1. “Get your Penny’s worth”:
At this point, every single coaching staff in the nation knows that Rashaad Penny is one of the most explosive and dynamic players in the country. As we saw last week, opponents will try every single trick in the book to stop him (even if it means poking his eyes). So my guess is that this week, coach Rocky Long will do his best to give Penny the ball in space. Perhaps set up a couple of screen passes, a wheel route, or maybe even put him in the slot. Whatever it takes to get him the ball. I think this week Penny will be given a chance to really shine.
2. Getting Christian Chapman to settle down:
During last week’s game against NIU, I thought that quarterback Christian Chapman was never comfortable. He made a couple of bad decisions in the pocket and that’s why, in my opinion, it’s very important for the offense to get him comfortable early on in this game. Maybe a couple of curl routes or slants in order to get him going. We all know he thrives on play action passes, but if the Aztecs want to avoid the upset in Sin City, their QB needs to play with more command of his offense.
After the horrific events from last Sunday, I think a lot of the players will be riding an emotional roller coaster. UNLV will come out ready to give their home fans something to cheer about. So SDSU better be careful in this one. In the end, I just don’t see the Aztecs losing this one. I think they’ll win it 44-31, pulling away in the second half.