Week 3 Preview – San Diego State Aztecs

UND (2-0) heads out to the west coast this week to take on the San Diego State Aztecs of the Mountain West Conference.  The Aztecs sit at 1-1 on the year after losing to Washington 21-12 in week 1 and beating Army 42-7 last week.  SDSU was picked 5th in a couple different MWC preseason polls and 4th in another.  UND is 0-5 all-time vs. FBS teams.  Gametime is set for 7pm central time.

As of now there is no television for the game if you’re a UND fan.  It is only televised locally by KUSI.  If we come across a live stream we will update this blog entry and tweet it.  The usual UND radio network stations will be covering the game.

UND Defense vs. SDSU Offense

When looking at the SDSU offense, they are eerily similar to the UND offense.  They run a pro-set, have a mobile QB, like to try and get the power running game going, and will max protect to take their shots deep with their speedy receivers.  On the year the SDSU offense is averaging 27 pts/game and 385 yds of total offense with 213 of that coming via the ground game.

Senior QB Ryan Katz has taken over the reigns this year and brings a different dimension to the Aztec offense.  They will run QB power/keeper with him to utilize his speed.  Katz, 6’1″-210, is very similar in size to UND’s QB Marcus Hendrickson and appears to have similar speed and throwing ability.  UND will need to be wary of his scrambling ability if his first reads are covered up.  On the year Katz is 24-40 for 343 yards and 2 TD’s.  Katz has also added 120 yards rushing in two games, showing how much of a dual-threat he is.

SDSU implements a two-headed running attack for the most part.  #4 sophomore Adam Muema and #34 senior Walter Kazee get the majority of the carries and are both very dangerous.  Muema, with 132 yds and 2 TD’s on the year, was very tough to bring down vs. Army and showed very good speed and shiftiness in that game.  Kazee has 137 yds and 2 TD’s on the year and is equally as dangerous.  UND must shore up its tackling this week to try and contain these two backs.  Muema is similar to Portland State’s DJ Adams, who UND had a hard time bringing down last week.

The main receiving threats are WR #3 Ezell Ruffin (5-132 yds) and TE Gavin Escobar (4-42 yds).  Escobar, (6’6-255) is a NFL-type of TE and will be a major problem for UND if they decide to throw corner routes or anything that allows him to box out UND’s much smaller safeties.  Ruffin (6’1″-205) is a physical receiver who will need to be watched closely by the UND corners in the play-action game that SDSU likes to implement.

Defensive keys to the game:

  • Once again, UND has to stop the run vs. SDSU.  They will try to get the power running game going early and if it is successful, they will drop the plow and UND could be in trouble – much like Army was last week.
  • Defend the long ball.  SDSU averages 20 passing attempts per game so when they throw they want to make it mean something.  If UND can defend those max-protected shots down the field, they will give themselves a very good shot at winning this game.
  • Withstand the early storm.  Last year Fresno State hit an early bomb for a TD that put UND behind immediately.  They recovered but UND cannot afford to do that versus a much more talented SDSU squad.  This task may be tougher if CB Daryl Brown cannot play.  He appeared to have been injured last week vs. PSU but we have not seen an update on his status yet for this week.

UND Offense vs SDSU Defense

The UND offense will have to be in “take what SDSU gives them” mode against the 3-3-5 SDSU defense that is small and fast.  We are very interested to see what SDSU does defensively out of the gate.  Do they stack the box and make Hendrickson beat them in man coverage?  Or do they play it safe and play zone coverage and make Hendrickson make the proper reads and decisions?  UND has to run the ball better this week to win this game and make everything click.  Based on what we heard from Rocky Long at his press conference, we think they may sit in zone coverage right away to get a feel for everything.  The first quarter tempo of this game should tell the whole story.

The matchup in the passing game will be one to watch for.  The SDSU secondary is led by CB Leon McFadden and S Nat Berhe.  It will be interesting to see if they ‘match-up’ with Hardin and lock McFadden on him.  Under the presumption that the Aztecs contain Hardin, this will be a huge game for RJ McGill, Jameer Jackson and Kenny Golladay.  We also could see Tyrhe Ivery seeing the field more this week in order to get fresh legs rotated throughout.  These guys need to play well.

If UND can rush the ball effectively to the tune of say, 170 yards, we feel they can control the tempo of the game and just do what they need to in the passing game.  If it becomes a shootout, SDSU has the advantage.  Having said that, if there was ever a UND offense in the last 15 years that was best-suited to be in a high-scoring shootout and come from behind, this is the one to do it.  We don’t prefer it, but feel like UND has the firepower to still go ‘blow for blow’.

Offensive keys to the game:

  • UND O-line needs to get ‘pissed’ and physically impose its will against the smaller, athletic, inexperienced Aztec D-line.
  • Marcus Hendrickson needs to play within himself and not let the moment of playing an FBS school affect his decision-making.  We know he can throw the deep ball in man coverage.  He will HAVE to be sound with his reads and throws when he sees the 3-3-5 zone coverage.
  • Kenny Golladay & Jameer Jackson.  Time to grow up on the field (not that they haven’t already).  You are no longer ‘freshmen’.  The offense will need you to step up huge this weekend and make plays downfield in the passing game.
  • The offense will be allowed 1 turnover – that’s it.


Is this going to be the year that UND finally gets that long-awaited FBS win?  SDSU runs the offensive style that UND has had success against in the past – run-first pro-style.  We feel it will ultimately be up to the UND defense and their ability to thwart big plays and tackle well.  Rocky Long will undoubtedly go for it a few times on 4th down and UND’s success on those plays will be paramount.  UND has a real shot in this game if they play a near-flawless game in all three phases.  SDSU’s kicker is not very good so there will be a chance for another blocked kick, if Long decides to not go for it on 4th down.

There is controversy at the SFI blog.  After all has been said we cannot come to an agreement on who will win – for the first time in the blog’s history.  Here are the predictions and lets hope Oskie is right:

Oskie:  UND 29  SDSU 28

Fritz:  SDSU 38  UND 34

2 Responses

Comments are closed.