The Mountain West Conference Championship is scheduled for Saturday, December 5, at 7:30 p.m. ET in San Diego, California. The San Diego State Aztecs are making their first appearance in the Mountain West Championship Game and will be seeking their second Mountain West Football Championship, and first outright title.
On Monday, San Diego State head coach Rocky Long took part in a Mountain West Football coaches teleconference.
The biggest question that is on most Aztecs fans' minds is how successful will the San Diego State offense be without quarterback Maxwell Smith. Smith tore his ACL in the first quarter of a 31-14 victory over Nevada this past Saturday. Coach Long is confident that redshirt freshman quarterback Christian Chapman can lead the offense, however he does admit that the offense won't be the same without Smith.
"We got good confidence in Christian Chapman. He throws the ball well, he is quick on his feet, he can get out of trouble. What he doesn't have is the experience," Long said. "We are going to probably have to be very conservative on offense. Make sure he's comfortable with everything we ask him to do. But he's going to have to throw the ball and complete some passes to give us a chance to move the ball like we want to."
Fortunately for the Aztecs they don't depend on the pass, rather their offense begins and ends with their run game. Donnel Pumphrey is the leader of the Aztecs running committee. On the season he has racked up 1464 rushing yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and a total of 16 touchdowns in 12 games. This weekend expect Pumphrey to be the engine that moves the San Diego State offense.
"He's (Pumphrey) a great running back. He gives us the chance to control the football as well as the big play or the chance to break it from a long distance out," Coach Long said. "He's not very big but he can run between the tackles and he can make people miss. And if he gets in the open field he has great speed. The ability to run the ball and use play action pass is what we're built on and you have to have good running backs to do that."
Defensively the Aztecs will have one week to prepare for Air Force's triple option, which has accounted for 3,882 rushing yards on the season. Even though Long has coached against the triple option in previous seasons he acknowledges that this team is not sufficiently prepared to stop the Air Force ground game.
"We thought we were going to be lucky and not play any triple option teams so we didn't practice any of it in training camp."
This will be a crucial week of preparation for an Aztecs defense that has limited opponents to 1140 yards on the ground.
San Diego State will need to come out and stay true to themselves. If they are able to move the ball on the ground and limit the Air Force offense then their first outright Mountain West Football Championship will be reality.