The San Diego State Aztecs are back home at Snapdragon hosting the Toledo Rockets. Can the Aztecs rebound to find their lost offense?
What was without a doubt, the most difficult task of the season in the rear view mirror, the Aztecs are back home to host the Toledo Rockets from the Mid-American Conference. After being thoroughly outplayed by the Utes 35-7, the Aztecs are looking to reestablish their brand of football. Defense, defense and more defense. While there are a few concerns about that side of the ball, most of the issues arise from the offense, or lack thereof. They showed no quarterback presence, little running game and virtually no passing game. Granted, one must weigh the quality of Utah against what is becoming a mediocre Aztec team. How good are the Aztecs really? With preseason accolades putting them in the hunt for the MWC championship, there remains much work to be done.
Toledo is 2-1 on the season with convincing wins against Long Island University 37-0, Univ. of Massachusetts 55-10 and an expected loss against Ohio State 77-21. Their offense, while being balanced is controlled at all levels by quarterback Dequan Finn. He has passed for 541 yards on 43/73 passing with 5 TD’s and 2 interceptions. He is also their leading rusher with 208 yards, 26 carries and 4 TD’s. He accounts for nearly 75% of their total offense. The Aztecs will need to find a solution to contain Finn or they may be on the losing end of the ball control and the game.
San Diego State (1-2) vs. Toledo Rockets (2-1)
Location: Snapdragon Stadium, San Diego, Ca.
Line: Utah -2 (Provided by DraftKingsSportsbooks) Over/Under 45.5 points
Date/Time: Saturday, September 24th at 12:30 PM PST
TV: Fox Sports 1
History: This is the first meeting between the Aztecs and the Rockets. SDSU owns a 14-1-1 record against MAC opponents. The Aztecs and Rockets both played against last years Rose Bowl contestants last week. Both teams are considered to be in the top tier of their respective conferences.
3 Keys to the Game
- What is the Aztec quarterback situation? As of this writing, backup quarterback Will Haskell has left the team for the transfer portal. It appears a lack of playing time may have contributed to his departure. Ok, back to what we know. Burmeister got injured early in the Utah game. Much like when he was hurt against Arizona, the Aztecs struggled with replacements. Will Haskell came in for one series and was replaced with Kyle Crum. This may have been what broke the camel's back. As of now, Burmeister is considered good to go as first string followed by Crum as his backup. He's taken quite the beating and one must consider if he will have residual negative effects. Crum did perform satisfactorily leading the Aztecs to their only scoring drive late in the 4th quarter last week. Aztec fans have been wanting to see Haskell play more. They may be watching his success with another team. He was considered by many to be the talent of the future. Right now, it is a revolving door of gunslingers, Burmeister and 3 other freshmen. It remains to be seen who will actually emerge as top sheriff.
- Can the Aztecs contain Toledo’s quarterback Finn? Dequan Finn is an exciting dual-threat quarterback who leads the Toledo offense. He is both the main and supporting cast of the Rockets, leading the team with passing and rushing yards. His support cast on the ground includes Penny Boone, 27 carries, 114 yards and 2 TD’s, and Jacquez Stewart with 101 yards, 18 carries and 1 TD. As a team they have rushed for 584 yards and passed for 571, as near to pure balance as one can get. Finn’s main receivers are by led by Jerjuan Newton with 10 receptions for 202 yards and 2 TD’s, and DeMeer Blankumsee with 16 catches for 123 yards. Adding a twist is Tight End, Jamal Turner, with only 3 catches but accounting for 87 yards including a long 69-yard touchdown. Pressure will be on the Aztecs’ Tavai and McDonald brothers to maintain their discipline and not allow Finn to scramble. Probably a shadow will be used to contain him to short gains. Praise must be given to the Aztecs during the first quarter of the Utah contest. They played extremely well, containing Utah’s formidable offensive attack but began to fall apart in the second quarter. Consistency will be required to limit Toledo’s ball movement. Establishing early field position with an emphasis on three and outs will provide the Aztecs the opportunity to shorten the field for their offense to find some way to engage.
- Which Aztec team will show up? So far the Aztecs are like a yo-yo. They keep swinging back and forth, establishing no balance or consistency. Bad games against Pac-12 opponents bookended a good game against an overmatched Idaho State squad. This should be a more evenly matched outing between two teams that look similar on paper. Developing consistency is key to any sport, whether it is golf or football. A team needs to know who their playmakers are, and what roles other players are required to do. One key player missing is Jesse Matthews. All MWC last year, he is unusually quiet this year with only 6 catches for 57 yards. Defenses are obviously keying on him, but the Aztecs will need to find a way to get him more involved. Keeping the quarterback healthy should be a main focus for the offensive line. Burmeister would tend to take off and be punished by defenders. Better, sustained blocking to allow for as much protection on a pass play as possible. This becomes more important now that there is one less quarterback on the roster.
Analysis/Prediction: I made a preseason pick of a 27-17 Aztec win. I don’t have alot of reason to alter that much. I do believe the Aztecs are a better team, but not by much. Much of the speculation is just that until it is proven. The Aztecs are back home and with good fan support, can provide a warm homecoming for the team. Early season games are about establishing routines and schemes and the Aztecs have taken that to heart. Find and establish the quarterback. Establish a running game. As of the time of this writing, the status of Chance Bell is still uncertain. It looks as if he may not be ready to play. Get your key receivers engaged in the offense. On defense, key on the main threat and neutralize him. In this case it is Finn. If the Aztecs can successfully contain him, the Rockets do not have any other weapons and can effectively be shut down. As of now, the teams most valuable player is Jack Browning who is handling kicking and punting duties. Seems to be a bit of Deja-vux from last year. Last week I suggested that the Utah game would be entertaining. Sorry for that misidentification of a fiasco being called a game. This weeks engagement looks to be more of a represented game. Either team can win by proper execution. Look for a breakout player who will take control of the game. I’m looking for the Aztecs to balance out their season record and come away with a hard-fought game. After this game, there’s no resting on laurels as Boise State awaits the Aztecs on Friday night for a conference opener. Can’t wait for conference play!