A team with the nation's tallest quarterback and a revitalized running attack is coming to Cougar Stadium to take on No. 4-ranked BYU this Saturday.
It will be the first WAC game of the season for San Diego State, 1-1 after losing to Oregon 42-21 and beating Long Beach State 38-20. It will also be the Aztecs' first time on a major network telecast since October 1983. The game, which starts at 1 p.m., will be televised by CBS.The Aztecs are most noted for having their passes thrown by 6-foot-8 Dan McGwire, brother of Oakland A's first baseman Mark McGwire and reportedly a top pro prospect. But it's the running game that has been the most-improved aspect of San Diego State's offense this season. McGwire has been OK, completing 51.5 percent of his passes, but a trio of Aztec running backs have racked up 387 yards on 66 carries - an average of 5.9 yards per carry. In 1989, San Diego State's top three backs averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Second-year Aztec Coach Al Luginbill says it was one of his goals to make the running game a serious threat. He didn't see any future in throwing the ball all over the stadium, swapping touchdowns and hoping when the dust cleared that his team would be ahead.
"We want to get out of the scoring-race syndrome at San Diego State," Luginbill said. "We're going to try to run the football, and if we can't, then we'll throw it."
So far the Aztecs have run the ball 77 times and passed it 81 times, achieving the kind of balance Luginbill hoped to accomplish. The top Aztec runners have been T.C. Wright, averaging 6.0 yards per carry; Tommy Booker, 5.4 yards; and Curtis Butts, who came off the bench last week to rack up 91 yards in 10 carries.
At the same time, McGwire has pleased his coach with his improved decision-making. Last season the towering signal-caller threw 19 interceptions and 16 touchdowns; this year he's had three TDs and one interception.
"There's no limit to what Dan can do," Luginbill said. "Danny had a good season last year, but he iscapable of having a great season. He has got to make the transition from being a thrower to being a passer."
Luginbill says he is a big admirer of BYU Coach LaVell Edwards' philosophy of doing essentially the same thing every year, with the emphasis on correct execution. "They do what they're going to do, and they don't care who they're playing," he said.
Against Oregon, San Diego State was in the ball game in the third quarter but committedd a crucial mistake. Trailing 28-21, the Aztecs stopped the Ducks on a third-down play but then were hit with a personal-foul penalty. The Ducks got a first down out of it and went on to score, and the Aztecs were finished.
Before the season, Luginbill was most concerned about his defense, which gave up an average of 31 points a game last year. Afer two games this season they are still giving up an average of 31 points a game, but Luginbill likes what he's seen.
The Aztec defenders have held opposing running backs to 3.1 yards per carry, prompting Luginbill to say, "We're a lot better defensive team than we were a year ago."