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STEVENS: Aztecs A Lot Like UNLV -- But With A Defense
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/29/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 29, 2009

New Mexico Game Notes vs. San Diego State

Lobo Football
What:
Lobos at San Diego State
When/Where: 5:34 p.m., Saturday, Qualcomm Stadium
Radio: 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network
TV: CBS College Sports (Comcast 274, DirecTV 613, Dish 152)
Online: GameTracker; game story on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

In a way, it is an offensive attack the Lobos saw a few days ago. The philosophy of the assault is similar even though the name changes from Rebels to Aztecs.

Unfortunately, the defense changes, too.

Much like UNLV, the San Diego State Aztecs do not hide how they plan to come at you. They are an aerial-happy group that looks to a quick-draw quarterback with the poise and the arm to inflict damage from the pocket.

Much like UNLV, the Aztecs' running game is a second thought, a reminder to front fours that SDSU does have the phrase "hand-off" in its offensive playbook.

However, there are two obvious differences between what UNM saw this past Saturday and what they will see in San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.

1- The Lobos will not be playing in the cozy confines of University Stadium.

2- The Aztecs have a defense that not only is better than UNLV's, but it is a Rocky Long-inspired defense that will be more difficult to predict and probably more difficult to block. These Aztecs definitely are headhunters and the head they will seek Saturday belongs to Lobo quarterback Donovan Porterie.

"What makes Rocky's defense unique is that he has a blitz package that he can use to bring guys from any and everywhere," said Lobo coach Mike Locksley.

The basic look of the Aztecs' defense really isn't that special to college ball. SDSU goes with a three-man front, but shifts and movement gives that front a variety of looks that challenge an offense's blocking schemes.

SDSU might go with a 3-3 front, a 3-4 front, a 3-5 front. The movement of linebackers and even defensive backs can make it a four-man or five-man front -- some attackers in a three-point attack, some standing.

The difference with the Aztecs' attack is that blitz package. It is a charge that is difficult to predict. It also is a charge that comes often and from many directions. When effective, it is a defense that can disrupt an offense and rattle a quarterback. It also can be a defense that gives up big plays. The 3-4 Aztecs have given up 26 or more points in five of their seven games.

So far, the Aztecs have adjusted nicely to this aggressive style of ball. They are only No. 4 in the Mountain West in total defense at 344.7 yards per game, but that number is good for the No. 50 spot in NCAA ball. The Lobos yield 429.3 yards per game.

A win over the Lobos is important for the 3-4 Aztecs. They are hoping to become bowl eligible at 6-6, but still have tough games with TCU and at Utah. They also play Wyoming and visit UNLV. The Aztecs would much rather be contemplating a 2-2 finish after UNM rather than a 3-1 finish.

The Aztecs also need to change their history with UNM. SDSU is riding an eight-game losing skid to the Lobos. The Aztecs have lost six straight at home to UNM.

The scary thing for the 0-7 Lobos about this Halloween Night game is that SDSU's strength probably isn't the Aztecs' defense. It's that aerial attack behind quarterback Ryan Lindley.

"This kid is an NFL pro-style guy who will stand in the pocket and hold on to the ball and deliver it into tight places," said Locksley.

Lindley is good and appears to be getting better. He has completed 141-of-254 passes for 1,889 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 picks. He averages 269.9 yards per game.

His arm has made the SDSU passing attack No. 2 in the MWC behind Brigham Young. SDSU is No. 17 in the NCAA at 282.1 passing yards per game.

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SDSU SCORES

At UCLA - 33-14 (L)
Vs. S. Utah - 35-19 (W)
At Idaho - 34-20 (L)
At Air Force - 26-14 (L)
Vs. NMSU - 34-17 (W)
Vs. BYU - 38-28 (L)
At CSU - 42-28 (W)
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The Aztecs slip to No. 5 in the MWC in total offense because of the Aztecs' ground attack that is the worst in the MWC. It also is ranked 119 out of 120 team on the national level. "They might not be running the ball as well as they would like," said Locksley.

That might be an understatement. SDSU's Brand Sullivan averages 46.6 yards per game and Walter Kazee kicks in 30 yards. SDSU averages 68.9 yards per game. This is partially a product of SDSU's passing philosophy. It also might be why SDSU passes so much.

The Aztecs don't have the super receiver that UNLV had in Ryan Wolfe, but Vincent Brown (injured) is close and Aztec DeMarco Sampson is close to Brown. Brown has 45 grabs on the season for a 111.1-yard average. Sampson has 37 catches for a 77-yard average. Brown also was a threat on kickoff and punt returns, where he has 253 return yards.

Locksley said another concern with the Aztecs is that they will be playing with momentum and confidence. SDSU is coming off its biggest road rally in nine seasons. The Aztecs overcame a 14-point, second-half deficit to win at Colorado State, 42-28.

It was a game that brought MWC co-offensive Players of The Week honors to Lindley and Sampson. Lindley threw for 459 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. Sampson caught 15 passes for 257 yards and three scores. He might be easier for UNM to handle with Brown on the injured list.

The Lobos definitely have to worry about Lindley and Sampson on Saturday. And that sneaky SDSU defense, too.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner

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