San Diego State vs. UNLV game preview

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Aztecs look for their fifth straight victory against Las Vegas to end their season 8-4.

San Diego State has won four straight games and seven of their last eight games and they close the season in Las Vegas today. Kick off will be at 7:30pm televised on ESPNU. This will be the 23rd meeting between both schools and SDSU holds the 14-8 advantage with the Aztecs winning the previous three and nine of the last eleven. However, those two losses came at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2005 and 2009.

The Aztecs are one of the few FBS schools to win seven games after losing their first three and four out of five. But the Aztecs can look ahead to their Bowl bid and take the Rebels lightly; this could be a trap game for SDSU. Head Coach Rocky Long reminded the Aztec faithful in his pre-game press conference that the Aztecs need to show up and play hard tonight.

"We've got another game, the last game of the regular season, this week. We're playing a very good football team, a team that has done a great job of building the program. The coaching staff has done a great job of recruiting really good players that play extremely hard and are physical.

They've got some really good skill guys on offense. It ought to be a really good football game." Rocky continued on to praise both the UNLV staff and players on their 2013 season. The Rebels are 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain West and deserve much respect.

"You have to give credit to their coaching staff. They went in there a couple years back and decided to build a program from the bottom up, and they've done a great job of recruiting," Long said. "They've stayed the course and worked those kids really hard, and now they're benefitting from the skill they recruited way back when. As (their players) have progressed and grown, they've gotten a lot better. Those kids are performing at a high level. They had a plan going in, they stuck with their plan, and now they're benefitting from it."

The resurgence of UNLV’s is the surprise of the Mountain West this year. Senior QB Caleb Herring is thriving in the hurry-up spread offense that first-year offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach brought to Las Vegas. Herring ranks among the top 50 quarterbacks in the nation in yardage along with Mountain West stars; Derrick Carr, David Fales, Brett Smith, Garrett Grayson, Quinn Kaehler and Cody Farjardo.

You can’t take the Rebels passing game lightly. "He was a really highly-recruited guy out of high school. He was a spread quarterback in high school, and now (UNLV) is in the spread more than they were last season. He's always been a really good athlete, and this year he's throwing the ball really well. He's very accurate and can throw the deep ball. He gets out of trouble and finds open receivers. He's playing at a high level. You can't win games without your quarterback playing well." The Aztec defense has really come into its own over the last few weeks.

CB J.J. Whittaker is coming off a career game, and the maturation of the cornerbacks has dramatically improved the play on the edge and upfront. Whittaker was quoted as saying, "We're expecting the same thing we did last week. We just want to go over the game plan in practice and execute it as best as we possibly can, and go out there and hopefully do our best. They're a great team. They're a team that has a lot of senior leadership like us. They're bowl eligible now and I'm pretty sure they want their seventh win just as bad as we want our eight."

When asked about playing games in overtime this year Whittaker said, "It's almost like we like to play in overtime. I would say we're all kind of veterans in overtime." As a long time Aztec fan, I don’t think the Aztec faithful want to see another overtime game unless it ends in the 8th victory of the year. Go Aztecs.

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