Stevens: Lobos Face Swarming Aztecs' Defense
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/01/2013

New Mexico Lobos (2-5, 0-3 MW) – Mountain West – at San Diego State (3-4, 2-1 MW)

When/Where: 6:08 p.m (MT), Saturday, Qualcomm Stadium

TV: ROOT Sports (Comcast 261, DirecTV 683, Dish 414); Mountain West Network

Radio: Lobo Radio Network (770-AM KKOB)

GoLobos.com:  Game Story, Complete Statistics, LoboTV 

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

If you didn’t know the Lobos were talking about Aztecs and football, you might close your eyes and envision a swarm of locust descending on a field of wheat.

For sure, the San Diego State Aztecs’ defense epitomizes the sports slogan “Bring It.” They swarm. They attack. They seek destruction.

“They bring defenders from everywhere, it seems,” said Lobo quarterback Clayton Mitchem. “Sometimes it seems like from out of the stands.”

“They are a very in-your-face kind of defense,” said QB Cole Gautsche.

That's the Rocky Long philosophy on stoppage.  His defense attacks the ball and the backfield. His teams disrupt. His defense takes chances but the talent of these Aztecs have them figuring that a few mistakes are worth the eventual disruption.

The Aztecs will give up a few big plays hoping that they also will throw teams into second-and-long or third-and-long situations and the odds will favor the Aztecs.

How the Lobos handle the Aztecs’ defense Saturday in Qualcomm Stadium obviously is critical. SDSU sits in the 76th spot nationally in total defense and the Aztecs are No. 21 in run defense yielding 124.9 yards per game. That’s the top mark in the Mountain West.

It will be the Aztecs’ strength on defense vs. the Lobos strength – the option -- on offense. SDSU will try to jam the middle and use its linebackers and rover to swarm the edge.  Of course, Long will have his blitz package, too.

“The blitzes are the most unique thing that they have,” said Mitchem.

Said Gautsche: “They are very multiple and bring different pressures.”

The SDSU blitz package is especially effective when it gets to the ball in the backfield.  But good penetration by the Aztecs also works to disrupt what an offense wants to do. The Aztecs look to change shapes and blocking angles. They like confusion and disarray.

“They come at you from a lot of different angles,” said Lobo center Dillon Farrell.  “They give you a lot of looks. It’s kind of a fun challenge.”

Of course, the Aztecs will try to take the fun out of it. They have the potential to do that on both sides of the football. “They are a talented team,” said Lobo Coach Bob Davie.

The Aztecs’ defense gets a lot of attention from any opponent because of their gambling style, their shifting front, and their blitz package.

On offense, the Aztecs are more traditional, even old-school when compared to the variety of spreads shaping the look of college football and lighting up scoreboards from coast to coast. “It’s just what college football is,” said Davie.

It’s not that way at SDSU.  “When you first look at it, it’s easier to prepare your defense for it because schematically they’re going to line up in a more traditional fashion,” said Davie.

 “Just to get lined up it’s going to be a lot easier. What happens with San Diego State is that they will line up and block you. They will come out and what you think you should be able to do you won’t do. You haven’t practiced against that stuff as much.”

The Aztecs often will show a pro set. They often will have a tight end and two receivers.  They will have a tailback attacking behind a fullback block.  They try to keep it simple, but do it well – do it better than what the defense is trying to do on the other side.

They also have big-play potential. They will spread it out, especially in passing situations. “They have really explosive players,” said Davie.

The SDSU explosions usually come from talented players exploiting defensive mistakes created out of the Aztecs’ traditional attack.  You can’t call the SDSU offense conservative. It’s simply a good attack coming out of a tighter formation. 

The Aztecs average 428.1 yards and 26.9 points.  The Lobos average 322.3 on the ground. SDSU’s total comes from 158.7 rushing yards and 269.4 passing yards. The Aztecs have been playing well over the past four games in which they average 488.0 total yards. They have had a 100-yard rusher in each of those games.

Adam Muema has 481 yards and Donnel Pumphrey has 501.  Muema had 111 yards against Fresno State. Pumphrey had 167 vs. NMSU and is averaging 7.51 yards per carry in his past four games. UNM bends at 480.7 yards per game.

The UNM defense needs to do better Saturday in San Diego. The Lobos were picked to lose 42-14 by the San Diego Union Tribune. The Lobo option needs to perform at a high level. The Lobos have had two weeks to improve on both sides of the football.

“I’m anxious to find out,” said Davie on how much of that improvement would be seen in San Diego.

Editor’s Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune.  You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.