At San Diego State, the Aztec defense must make the abrupt adjustment from pass-happy BYU last week to run-oriented Air Force this week. But coach Al Luginbill says his team is ready.
"In the off-season, we studied our first three conference opponents," Luginbill said. "We knew how important those games would be. And we knew it would be advantageous to get some extra preparation for one team that passes, one that runs and one that is well-balanced (next week's opponent, Wyoming)."The triple option that Air Force runs is not as foreign to us as it was a year ago."
Last year, it may as well have come from outer space. SDSU never had a clue about how to stop the Falcons' wishbone. Quarterback Dee Dowis rushed for 249 yards on only 13 carries and scored six touchdowns in a 52-36 romp.
Luginbill insists his defense is much improved over last year, even though the statistics don't support his claim. The Aztecs rank last in the WAC in pass defense and last in the nation in total defense, yielding 510 yards per game. But they're first in the WAC in run defense, yielding just 101.
Offensively, the Aztecs rank eighth nationally in passing, averaging 306 yards per game. Dan McGwire has thrown for 820 yards and six touchdowns, with just one interception.
AFA has compiled a 2-2 record largely on the strength of the WAC's stingiest defense. The offense has struggled, partly because of quarterback Ron Gray's knee injury, which might sideline him this week as it did in a 24-12 loss to Wyoming last week.
"In terms of the progress we're trying to make in our program, we look at this as just a gigantic football game for us," Luginbill said.
Also in the Western Athletic Conference on Saturday, Wyoming (4-0) travels to Utah (2-2). In non-league games, No. 4 Brigham Young (4-0) plays at Oregon (2-1), Colorado State (3-1) travels to No. 23 Arkansas (1-1), New Mexico (1-3) is at Kansas State (2-1), and Texas-El Paso (1-3) entertains Sam Houston State (1-2). Hawaii is idle.
CSU faces its second nationally ranked opponent in three weeks. The Razorbacks are anxious to rebound from last week's 21-17 loss to Mississippi. Arkansas held the Rebels to 111 total yards and had the ball for more than 40 minutes, but still lost.
CSU, 3-1 for the first time since 1977, boasts the WAC's leading rusher this week, Brian Copeland, whose 142 yards against UTEP gave him a per-game average of 86.5.
New Mexico looks to shake a three-game losing streak, while KSU seeks to post three victories for the first time since 1984. The Lobos let Texas Tech escape a fourth-and-18 situation in the final minute to work their way to a field goal in a 34-32 decision. KSU yielded 21 points in the fourth quarter in a 42-35 loss to Northern Illinois.
UTEP takes on its final non-league foe before meeting six straight WAC opponents. The Miners squandered a 13-0 lead over CSU to lose 38-20, despite producing 238 yards on the ground and another 140 in the air. Sam Houston, a Division I-AA team, played Baylor tough last week, forcing the Bears to rally for a 13-9 victory.