WHEN: Saturday, December 5, 4:30 PM PST
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
COACHES: Troy Calhoun, Rocky Long
SERIES RECORD: 14-19 Air Force, 34th Meeting All-Time
The Air Force Falcons come to San Diego looking to challenge San Diego State for outright ownership of the Mountain West Conference Championship. The Aztecs, playing at a high level, have dominated the Mountain West Conference going undefeated for the first time in school history.
The two schools are no strangers having played every consecutive year since 1999 and under Rocky Long the Aztecs are 4-0. An Aztecs win on Saturday means their 20th conference title in school history. The Falcons are coming off a loss against New Mexico and look to get back in the win column at Qualcomm Stadium.
Keys to Victory
Stopping The Triple-Option
Navy, the San Diego State's last opponent running the triple-option, upset the Aztecs in their own stadium during the Poinsettia Bowl with a final score of 17-16. In that game, Navy out rushed them 254 to 186. Rocky Long's team struggled that night to come away with plays, but the Aztecs also hosted the Falcons last year in San Diego using the passing attack to help defeat the Falcons.
This Air Force team features 11 players on the Air Force with over 100 yards of rushing. The upside of this, is that the San Diego State defense is one the most dominant defenses in the history of San Diego State football. In their last three meetings, San Diego State has held Air Force to under 200 yards of rushing.
Who is Christian Chapman?
The freshman will get his start during the Mountain West Championship due to a ACL injury to Maxwell Smith. Before coming into last week’s game against Nevada, Chapman’s last snap was at Cal. This season, including the snaps against Nevada, he is 12/24 with 120 yards, and one interception.
The Falcons will do everything they can on defense to shut down Donnel Pumphrey and put pressure on Chapman to make plays. It's up to Chapman to play mistake-free football and don't mess up the backfield, Troy Calhoun and Rocky Long expects the running game to carry this team to the end.
San Diego State swept All-Mountain West standouts including Special Teams Player of the Year, Rashaad Penny. We know Pumphrey and Chase Price have the team’s best chance at winning, but Penny has been silent on kick returns despite leading the Mountain West in kickoff touchdowns, and kickoff yards per return.
Penny has scored on offense, but great special teams plays will make it easier for Chapman to manage the game on offense. When it comes to the kicking game, Donny Hageman has been 15/20 on field goals and last week's miss was his first since October 23rd against Utah State.
San Diego State will fall behind in the first quarter because of Air Force stacking the line with 8-9 men, leaving the game in the hands of Christian Chapman. Weston Steelhammer will be a force on defense, but Mikah Holder will come to save the day for Chapman. The San Diego State defense will also have a lot to handle in Air Force's backfield and the multiple threats will confuse the Aztecs.
Still, the San Diego State defense will be stout and figure it out before halftime. Their seniors are leaders and strong like Jake Fely and J.J. Whitaker, and the underclassmen will continue to contribute to disrupting the opposing offense. Through the second half the trophy will remain in San Diego because of Pumphrey, Price, and Penny. Pumphrey will be shy of 100, but with two touchdowns while Price goes for 100+ yards and Penny returns one more touchdown.
San Diego State 34, Air Force 28