Midseason Report Card

Aztec Report hands out midseason grades to the San Diego State offense, defense and special teams. Throwing out a couple of awards while we are at it...

Offense

San Diego State offense is led by second year offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig who has put together a well-balanced machine. The Aztecs are averaging 38.2 points per game despite starting the season with a depleted offensive line and their two stars in Ryan Lindley and Ronnie Hillman no longer at SDSU. How have they done it? A heavy dosage of Adam Muema and Walter Kazee, who lead a running attack, that has ran for over 225 yards per game this season. They have also totaled 13 total touchdowns.

With that combo Ludwig has been able to create huge plays off play-action, as Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz has been deadly in those situations. Katz on the season has an efficiency rating 149.38 while throwing 191 yards a game with 11 touchdown passes to 7 different receivers. He has also been able to run the ball over 44 yards a contest including 3 touchdowns last week against Hawaii.

The receiving core has been inconsistent especially on an individual basis, not one receiver has stepped up to be that go-to player but each has had their moment. Most concerning part about the offense has been the play of the offense line, giving up 21 sacks in 6 games this season but the unit has been fantastic in blocking for the run.

SDSU in the national rankings:
Passing efficiency – 37
Passing offense – 98
Rushing offense – 18
Total offense – 49
Scoring offense – 25
Sacks allowed – 119

Midterm grade: B+

Defense

The defense is giving up 28.8 points per game by allowing 389 yards of total offense with 274 of it coming through the air. Aztecs have only sacked opposing quarterbacks 12 times but have forced 14 turnovers. All that being said if you eliminate the two games against Army and Hawaii, suspect offenses, the defense is allowing 38 points in those four contests. They have had trouble against the spread offense and it really showed in the three games against North Dakota, San Jose State and Fresno State. The solution? Make the defense simple. That should help but the Aztecs have no answer to bring consistent pressure on the quarterback. Until SDSU fixes that issue, opposing spread offensive teams will continue to drop back looking to throw against a skelly type defense. More on the defense later.

SDSU in the national rankings:
Sacks – t-46
Interceptions – t-41
Pass defense – 101
Pass efficiency defense – 106
Rushing defense – 27
Total defense – 61
Scoring defense – 80

Midterm grade: C-

Special Teams

It's been music chairs for the special teams since the beginning of the season. It all started with the "Rocky Long Chart," meaning the Aztecs were not going to punt or kick field goals on their opponent's side of the field. That idea was washed away after week one. Leading to kicker Chance Marden, who has attempted all of the field goals this season but only connected on 3 of 6. It took a game for freshman Seamus McMorrow to take the punting reins from Joel Alesi but games later he was suspended for a game due to breaking team rules. The same went for the kickoff duties. As for the kickoff coverage, it has been suspect, giving up multiple long returns. All season long it has been a roller coaster from blocked PAT's returned for 2 points, muffed punts and returning a kickoff to their own 1-yard line.

SDSU in the national rankings:
Kickoff returns – 40
Kickoff return yardage defense – 95
Punt returns – 50
Net punting – 60
Field Goal Percentage – 106

Midterm grade: D

Awards

MVP – Leon McFadden

The leader of the SDSU defense was recently named to Phil Steele's 2012 Midseason All-American Team. He's second in the team in tackles (30), 3 interceptions with 2 returned for touchdowns, 6 pass breakups and a forced fumble. Enough said.

Largest Surprise – No Injuries

Leaning towards saying the obvious answer of Ryan Katz but the Aztecs have been extremely fortunate in the injury department. I know, I know, knock on wood! But SDSU hasn't lost any starter for more than a game with their largest injury coming to probably J.J. Whittaker who could really help in their pass defense.

Biggest Disappointment – Pass Defense

This one should be obvious to everyone after watching games against North Dakota, Fresno State and San Jose State. San Diego State couldn't stop the pass for plenty of reasons: no pass rush, too many blown assignments, etc. At the end of the day the team rates 101st in pass defense and 106th in pass efficiency defense. That has to be a mistake right? Nope and if it wasn't for the triple-option offense of Army and Hawaii, team that can't move the ball on anyone, on their schedule the numbers would be even worse.

What to Watch for in the Second Half

Aztecs are now at the halfway mark of the season with an overall record of 3-3, 1-1 in the Mountain West. The rest of their home games include this weekend against Colorado State, at the end of October versus UNLV and a November matchup with Air Force. While on the road, SDSU is 0-2 on the season with three tough places to play at: Nevada, Boise State and Wyoming. If San Diego State plans to finish the season above .500 and clinch a bowl game they must at least win one game on the road. To salvage this season the offense must continue to score at that same pace with some more help from the receivers and offensive line. The defense must look to find more ways to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, limiting points during the process. The special teams unit just can't lose them ball games.

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