San Diego State Preview

What is in a 0-2 record? Nothing at all say the Aztecs and their fans. San Diego State feels that a winless record so far is not indicative of the high level that first year coach Tom Craft's team has been playing. In their home opener against the Sun Devils, they will try and transform that theory to their first victory of the 2002 season. Let's meet the San Diego State Aztecs.

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The Aztecs are 8-2 in home openers under a new head coach, and will look to continue that positive trend on Saturday. Nevertheless, SDSU has won only four home games since 1999. Tom Craft, an Aztecs' alum, was hired because of his offensive expertise. Despite the two losses his team has suffered, they rank nationally 13th in passing offense, and are averaging a shade under 300 yards a game. Quarterback Adam Hall is 15th nationally in total offense with 280 yards a game. Hall leads the nation with an average of 32 completed passes a game. He has two fine receivers at his disposal – Kassim Osgood and J.R. Tolver. Osgood's 14 catches against Colorado last week currently rank the best by any player in any one game, and his 23 total receptions rank him second in the nation. Furthermore, he averages 118 yards a game. Tolver averages the same number of yards a game, and ranks sixth in the nation with an average of nine catches per game. Three of the Aztecs' touchdowns this season came on drives covering at least 80 yards, but this is no thanks to its rushing game. San Diego State averages only 40 yards a game, and averages 28 minutes in possession time. Running back James Truvillion is the leader in the ground game, and has so far gained 78 yards rushing. However, his running is fairly effective due to the fact that he averages 3.9 yards a carry.

SDSU's linebackers have been the strength of the defensive unit. Kirk Morrison leads the team through two games with 13 tackles. His line mates Matt McCoy and Beau Trickey each had nine tackles last week in Boulder. Free safety Marviel Underwood anchors the secondary, and is second on the team with 11 tackles. Cornerbacks Jeff Shoate and Ricky Sharpe have also been among the tackle leaders amassing 13 and 11 tackles respectively. Another defensive standout is defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila - a talented pass rusher, which ASU must account for on every down. The Aztecs are 54th in the nation in total defense allowing 331 yards a game. They led the Mountain West conference in sacks last year with 26, and with five sacks in 2002 are ahead of the pace to improve on that total.

SDSU has failed to make a field goal in four attempts this season. Their punter, Brian Simnjanovski missed one of those kicks (the other three were missed by place kicker Tommy Kirovski), but is doing a much better job punting for an average of 43.4 yards a game. The return game is an area that begs for improvement, especially the kickoff return which is ranked 85th in the nation, compared to ASU's 7th place ranking.

So do the numbers mislead when it comes to analyzing this San Diego State team? A highly potent passing offense is putting up bushels of yards each game, but scored only one of four touchdowns so far, and is a rare visitor to the red zone (a total of four times). The stagnant running game has failed to compliment the passing game, but has ironically scored the other three offensive touchdowns. The Aztecs' defense, which isn't adept stopping the pass or the run, held Fresno State to only 16 points at home, only to crumble on their second road game in Colorado giving up 34 points. Nevertheless, this is a defense that has the full attention and respect of ASU. The Aztecs look to snap an 11-game losing streak to Pac-10 teams, and is full of confidence that they can topple the visitors from Tempe. Is this a prophecy about to be materialized or a denial of the team's deficiencies that have yet to improve? Stay tuned for the answer to be revealed on Saturday night in Mission Valley.

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