North Dakota and their aerial attack will fly into Qualcomm Stadium Saturday against San Diego State's 3-3-5 defense, averaging 527 yards and 55.5 points per game in their first two outings of the season.
The Fighting Sioux are led by senior quarterback Marcus Hendrickson and junior wide receiver Greg Hardin.
Last week Hendrickson, in his first career start due to an injury to first-string quarterback Braden Hanson, completed 16 of his 24 passes for 294 yards including share of the UND single-game touchdown record with six. He also had 50 rushing yards.
"Last week he threw six touchdown passes," SDSU head coach Rocky Long said. "Now some of that is Hardin. Some of that is the receiver. Because a couple of them, he just threw them up deep and Hardin went and outraced everybody to the ball and went 66 yards for the touchdown."
"So any time a quarterback has a good day, a lot of it has to do with the guys he's throwing to. They also have two redshirt freshmen receivers that are 6'4", and 6'3". The 6'3" guy weighs 233 pounds. So at the receivers I'm saying this, and everybody's saying its North Dakota. Their receivers are a tough match-up for us because of the height of the young guys and the speed of Hardin."
Hardin was the main beneficiary in the 45-37 victory over Portland State last Saturday, as he brought in 6 receptions for 190 yards and 3 touchdowns.
"Hardin is as fast as anybody we've played against in the last two years," Long said. "I just was watching last year's TCU game to try to get a feel for it because TCU has wide receivers like this guy. It's the same thing. It's very similar."
The back five for the Aztecs know their hands will be full, as they are not taking the Fighting Sioux lightly.
"He's very quick," SDSU cornerback Josh Wade said. "We see on film, he's running by guys. He goes up after the ball, and he has a good quarterback behind him throwing the ball. So we'll see how we fare and hopefully we'll have a good week in practice."
SDSU will look to their scout team to help prepare the secondary for this upcoming battle.
"We've got two young guys," Long said. "They're not as fast as he [Hardin] is. Eric Judge is from San Diego High, and Lloyd Mills is from Arizona. They're little guys, but they both run fast. Last year we had Ezell Ruffin. That was great for our scout team. It wasn't good for our team because he should have been playing, but it was great for our scout team."
One of the largest concerns heading into this matchup for the Aztecs is the size of North Dakota's offensive line.
"It might be the biggest offensive line we play against," Long said. "Their left tackle is 6'5", 312. Their left guard is 6'6", 293. Their center is 6'4", 302. Their right guard is 6'8", 342, their right tackle is 6"8', 304, and their tight end is 6'4", 270."
With all that North Dakota brings to the table, the toughest component of the game for SDSU might be the transition against another different style of offense. Week one it was Washington's spread offense, week two it was Army's triple option and this week UND comes into town.
"You definitely have to change mindsets going against the triple option," Wade said. "They do a lot of things different and unorthodox. But there's a good team with a good quarterback and wide receiver coming (in here this weekend). There are a lot of good pass concepts. We've just got to change our mindset, and Coach will come in with a game plan this week and try to install it and we will try to execute like he did last week."
The Fighting Sioux has a similar offensive style to the Aztecs.
"They run similar formations," Long said. "They run similar personnel groups."
"They get into a pro set sometimes and run power plays and play-action pass, and sometimes they put four wide receivers in there and run the spread. So they're the most diverse team we've played so far, but it's really hard coming off a triple option weekend to something else. But that happens every time we play a triple option team."
A prepared San Diego State defense will look to continue their recent success, given up only 14 points in the last 6 quarters of Aztecs football.
Preparing for North Dakota's explosive attack
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