The Battle for the Oil Can: Aztecs Look to Rebound Against Surging Bulldogs

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Credit: EVT News

San Diego St vs Fresno State

Saturday, October 21, 7:30 PM on CBSS

SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, California


San Diego State (6-1, 2-1 MWC) faces off against Fresno State (4-2, 3-0 MWC) Saturday at SDCCU Stadium.  The Bulldogs come into the game leading the Aztecs by a game in the Mountain West Conference West Division.

The Aztecs and Bulldogs are meeting for the 57th time, with the Aztecs leading the series 29-23-4.

San Diego State is licking their wounds after losing their first game of the season to Boise State 31-14, ending any hopes the team had of a perfect season and a New Year’s Day Bowl Game.  Regarding their loss, head coach Rocky Long had this to say: “I think, personally, I made a mistake about the way I approached last week’s game and it has something to do with young football players. This game is no more important than next week’s game or last week’s game. And I think we approached last week’s game, maybe subtly, but I think we approached last week’s game as more important. And our team did not handle that the right way. So you guys can build it up all you want, this game is important, but it’s not going to make or break our season and it’s no more important than next week’s game.”  Despite his downplaying of the significance of this game, this game could mean more to the Aztecs than the game last week.  The winner of this week’s game will have the head-to-head advantage, which could be huge if both teams should end up with the same conference record.

Fresno State is coming off of an impressive win over New Mexico State 38-0.  The early line in Vegas has the Aztecs favored by seven and half points.  The Bulldogs have been abysmal the last three years, going 10-28 in that span.  Out goes Tim DeRuyter and in comes Jeff Tedford as head coach.  Tedford seems to have the Bulldogs back on track despite two lopsided losses to number one-ranked Alabama and number six Washington.  Fresno State has two shutouts this year, including a 66-0 opening game against Incarnate Word.  Their other two wins this season came against San Jose State and Nevada.  Despite their two losses against top ten teams, Fresno’s other games haven’t been close.

Fresno State is led by junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion (6-2, 195) who has 996 yards passing, completing 65.8% of his passes.  McMaryion has done a good job protecting the ball this year and has seven touchdowns with only one interception.  In 2016 he finished the season with 1286 passing yards, with ten touchdowns versus five interceptions, after starting the last six games of the season for the Oregon State Beavers.  Winning games against Arizona and Oregon during that span wasn’t enough for Marcus to be named the starter as Oregon State head coach Gary Anderson pegged Jake Luton for the Beaver’s starting job.  McMaryion announced his transfer early August and won the starting job against incumbent starter, Chason Virgil.

Credit: AP Photo

McMaryion will be targeting a talented receiving corps led by junior wide receiver KeeSean Johnson (6-2, 202) and senior wideout De’Mari Scott (6-1, 210.)  Johnson leads all receivers with 33 receptions for 487 yards and four touchdowns.  The Bulldogs have had success with the long ball and have completed five passes for over 45 yards, three of which led to scores.  Johnson is the Bulldog’s deep threat while Scott is their possession receiver.

The Bulldog rushing attack deploys three capable running backs featuring a pair of freshmen, Ronnie Rivers (5-8, 175) and Jordan Mims (5-11, 190.)  Rounding out the three-headed attack is sophomore Josh Hokit (6-1, 220.)  The three have accounted for 763 of the team’s 1006 rushing yards and have ten touchdowns amongst them.  The longest run from scrimmage this year, however, belongs to McMaryion, which was 57 yards.  Rivers’ status this game is uncertain due to an elbow injury suffered in the second half of last week’s game against New Mexico which sidelined him for the rest of the game.  Rivers did suit up for Wednesday’s practice and went through individual drills with full pads.  Rivers is the son of former Fresno State standout and second-all-time Bulldog leading rusher, Ron Rivers.

The Aztecs once again will face a stout run defense who last week limited the nation’s twelfth-ranked rushing offense to 109 yards after averaging 266.8 per game for the season.  SDSU’s offensive coordinator was quoted as saying this about the Bulldog defense: “Linebackers are big, thick guys who run well and they always have good skill guys in the back-end, guys who can run.”  Junior defensive lineman Emeka Ndoh (6-0, 252) is the player to watch up front who has three of the teams 13 sacks.  The linebackers feature a pair of playmakers, sophomore Jeffery Allison (6-0, 250) and junior Mike Bell (6-3, 205.)  The backfield will be anchored by sophomore junior safety Jaron Bryant (6-1, 183), who has three interceptions for the season.

The Old Oil Can Trophy will be on the line.  The Aztecs would want nothing more to celebrate a Homecoming win and keep the trophy on the Mesa.  It won’t be easy, and yards could be tough to come by.  If the Aztecs are to keep their hopes alive for a New Year’s Day bowl game, they will need to see better play on the line on both sides of the ball.  The Aztecs are the better team and should win.  What is left to be seen is whether this team has the maturity to bounce back from a loss like they had last week.  Rocky Long and his staff will need to get Penny back on track and keep that explosive Bulldog offense on the sidelines.  Prediction – Aztecs 23, Bulldogs 17.

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