As his team takes aim at unbeaten Wyoming this weekend, San Diego State Coach Al Luginbill comes away from film study with nothing but admiration for the opposition.
"They find ways to win football games," Luginbill said. "We'd like to put a stop to that for one week."Paul (Wyoming Coach Roach) has done a great job of putting defense back into Wyoming football. Defense is important again up there. They rely on their defense to pull them through the tough spots. Everybody focuses on their defensive line, but the strength of their defense is not just the front four. They also have some great athletes in the secondary."
That defense, which ranks first in the Western Athletic Conference, will be tested Saturday in Laramie by one of the nation's hottest quarterbacks. In his last two games, Dan McGwire completed 51 of 88 passes for 705 yards and six touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Aztec wide receiver Dennis Arey has a string of three straight games with more than 100 yards receiving, while Patrick Rowe has two in a row.
"Dan has improved his execution each week," Luginbill said, "and a lot of people around him are helping him play better. I think his greatest games are ahead of him. He does things for our offense that Ty Detmer does for BYU."
SDSU (2-2, 1-1 in the WAC) is fresh from a 48-18 thrashing of Air Force. The Aztecs recovered six AFA fumbles, blocked a punt and returned an intercepted pitchout for a TD, but Wyoming hasn't been vulnerable to the turnover. Wyoming (5-0 and 2-0) leads the WAC with 23 takeaways while suffering only 13 giveaways.
Wyoming's offense, led by quarterback Tom Corontzos, is balanced, averaging 179 yards rushing and 212 passing. But the Cowboys may be without one of their biggest weapons. Placekicker Sean Fleming still is hobbled by a pulled hamstring and might be limited to extra points and short field goals on Saturday.
In other WAC action this weekend, Utah visits Colorado State, and Texas-El Paso is at New Mexico. Air Force plays host to Navy in a service-academy rivalry, and Hawaii entertains Maine. Brigham Young is idle.
UTEP (2-3 and 0-2) halted a two-game losing streak by beating Sam Houston State 17-10 last week, while New Mexico (1-4 overall) begins WAC play trying to snap a four-game skid. The Lobos hit bottom last week in a 38-6 loss to Kansas State in which they suffered six turnovers.
UTEP continues to be plagued by injuries. Quarterback Mike Perez and wide receiver Reggie Barrett both have ankle injuries, and linebacker Barron Wortham is sidelined with a leg injury. Before his injury, Perez threw TD passes of 56 and 71 yards, the latter to break a 10-10 tie in the fourth quarter. If Perez can't play Saturday, the Miners will be reduced to starting their third different quarterback of the season.
UNM Coach Mike Sheppard must be saying the wrong things to his team at halftime. The Lobos have been outscored 44-5 in the third quarter this season. UNM's offense has been respectable, with Eric Morgan leading the WAC in receiving (40 for 483 yards) and Andre Wooten ranking second in rushing (70.8 yards per game).
With Ron Gray scheduled for knee surgery, Air Force (2-3) must rally offensively around backup quarterbacks Jarvis Baker and Rob Perez, who helped produce the Falcons' best rushing performance of the year (343 yards) last week. Navy (2-2) is attempting to upgrade its passing attack, but Alton Grizzard was intercepted five times in a 28-17 loss to Boston College last week.
Hawaii (1-2) comes off an open date after posting its first victory of the season, a 19-7 verdict over Utah two weeks ago. Slotback Jeff Sydner leads the WAC in all-purpose running (144.3 yards per game), but the Rainbows have been untypically ineffective on the ground, averaging just 97 yards per game. Division I-AA Maine is 0-4, having bowed to Richmond 24-16 last week.