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San Diego State vs. UNLV: Keys to an Aztec victory

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The Aztecs look for a third consecutive win against the Rebels.

NCAA Football: Wyoming at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After falling out of the AP Top 25 following a 42-24 loss to unranked Southern Alabama, the San Diego State Aztecs will look to bounce back against the UNLV Rebels. Below are three keys to ensure a victory for the Aztecs this Saturday.

1. Win the Run Game

The Aztecs have relied on senior running-back Donnel Pumphrey, who leads the NCAA in rushing yards (750) and is fifth in total touchdowns (8). Pumphrey surpassed Marshall Faulk when he broke the SDSU career rushing yards record three weeks ago against California. In addition, he is currently ranked 20th (5,022) in career NCAA rushing yards. However, the Aztecs must slow down the Rebels, who rank ninth in the nation in rushing yards per game (273). Overall, the Aztecs must dominate the run game in order to set and control the pace of the game.

2. Force turnovers

Through the first five games of the season, Rebels’ QB Johnny Stanton has been a high-risk and high-reward player, who has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions. The Aztecs are 11th in the nation in passes intercepted (7) and should look to turn turnovers into quick points. San Diego State’s defense must pressure Stanton into making quick decisions that the Aztecs can capitalize on. For example, the Aztecs forced California’s QB Davis Webb into throwing three interceptions, in which one resulted in a touchdown and an interception with 0:23 in the 4th quarter to seal the game.

3. Embrace the pass game

Despite the Aztecs success running the ball, there has been concern in the production of points through the air. Through five games, sophomore QB Christian Chapman has thrown for 697 yards with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Yet, it is easy for the Aztecs to forget about Chapman’s abilities when the run game is going well. Chapman has a strong QB rating (147.9) and has been productive completing his passes (60.7%). The first game of the season against New Hampshire was one of Chapman’s bright moments, where he went 16-for-25 on 283 yards and produced a clean slate (two touchdowns and zero interceptions).

Chapman has not thrown more than 25 passes during a game this season. Despite a small sample size, Chapman’s touchdown to interception ratio (3.5) should not go unnoticed. He may be the missing piece to the Aztecs when their offense slows down and the run game has an off night. Overall, Chapman’s success can majorly influence how San Diego State will fare for the remainder of the season.