Before diving into this week’s keys, let us revisit last week’s three keys to victory against Air Force and how they impacted the Aztecs’ victory.
Win the first quarter
Not only did the Aztecs win the first quarter, 3-0, but they scored the game’s first twenty points before Air Force was able to get on the board with one minute remaining in the third quarter. Given Air Force’s late push with two touchdowns to make it a one-score game, the Aztecs’ strong start to the game proved to be vital to their victory.
Contain the fullback to less than 3.0 yards per carry
The Aztecs held Brad Roberts to only 27 rushing yards on seven carries, an average of 3.9 yards per carry. While the Aztecs did not hit the 3.0 yards per carry mark, limiting Roberts’ production forced the Falcons to pass the ball more than they would like, and their quarterbacks finished a combined 5 for 15 for 67 yards.
Give Jordan Byrd at least eight touches in the game
Byrd received seven touches in the game, rushing six times for 32 yards and catching one pass for 20 yards. It was Byrd’s most productive game in three weeks and shows why he needs to be a key contributor in every game for the Aztecs offense to reach its potential.
Here are the three keys to victory against Fresno State this Saturday.
Hold Fresno State to less than 33% conversions on third downs
San Diego State is 53-5 the last 58 times it held its opponent to a third-down conversion percentage of 33% or less. Fresno State has converted 40% of their third downs so far this season. If the Aztecs can keep the Bulldogs well below their season average, they can win the field position battle and force the Bulldogs to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns when they are in the red zone.
Win the turnover margin
San Diego State has forced at least one turnover in twenty consecutive games and won seven straight games when committing fewer turnovers than its opponent. The Bulldogs have committed nine turnovers in their only two losses this season against Oregon and Hawaii. If the Aztecs’ defense can create turnovers to give their offense a short field, this will greatly increase the likelihood of an Aztec victory.
Limit the negative plays on offense to less than three
Given Fresno State’s ability to put points on the board, the Aztecs will need to score multiple touchdowns to win this game. While they lean heavily on their running backs to accumulate yards and score touchdowns, the Aztecs passing game will need to contribute. The strength of the Bulldogs defense is up front, and they are second in FBS with eight tackles for loss per game. If the Aztecs’ offense can limit these negative plays, they will find themselves in manageable third-down yardage situations, keep the defense guessing and take shots deep down the field.