San Diego State (2-3) at Air Force (1-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 10, 9 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Falcon Stadium (46,692) -- United States Air Force Academy, Colorado. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: SDSU 1-2, AF 1-2. Away Record: SDSU 1-1, AF 0-3. Neutral Record: SDSU 0-0, AF 0-0. Conference Record: SDSU 1-0, AF 0-4. Series Record: Air Force leads, 19-12.
GAME NOTES: Playing their third game in a span of 13 days, the San Diego State Aztecs head to Colorado for a special Thursday night bout against Mountain West Conference foe Air Force.
While that might sound like a tough road for the Aztecs, the truth is the team has actually played better these last few weeks for head coach Rocky Long. In fact, after losing three straight games out of the gate to the likes of Eastern Illinois, Ohio State and Oregon State, SDSU has won back-to-back efforts versus New Mexico State and Nevada.
While the victory versus the Aggies was a come-from-behind endeavor against one of the weakest programs in college football, last week's 51-44 overtime affair against the Wolf Pack in the MWC opener proved to be much more exciting. San Diego State has now won eight straight conference outings, the longest win streak in league play for the program since it posted nine in a row between 1973-75 when playing in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have had very little to cheer about since they began the season with a win over visiting Colgate. Last weekend, Air Force was in jeopardy of not taking the field because the government shutdown had caused the Academies to cut back on their activities and that included a date with Navy in Annapolis. However, the Department of Defense gave the go-ahead for the teams to play and, unfortunately, that turned into a 28-10 loss to the Midshipmen in the first portion of the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy series.
Air Force, which is currently riding a five-game losing streak. leads the all- time series with the Aztecs by a 19-12 margin, but the Academy lost to SDSU last season, 28-9. San Diego State has won three straight versus Air Force and a win this time around would give the program its first four-game run in series history.
Keeping the Aztecs in the mix last week against Nevada was quarterback Quinn Kaehler who converted 23-of-32 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns, with Eric Judge collecting six passes for 54 yards and two TDs. Judge caught what proved to be the game-winning score in overtime on a 13-yard pass play.
Running backs Adam Muema and Donnel Pumphrey combined to post 246 of the unit's 255 net rushing yards, scored three times. The Aztecs rolled up 541 yards of total offense on 71 plays, while the defense had to endure a staggering 109 snaps by the Nevada offense.
Even though coach Long is considered a defensive specialist, the Aztecs are far from a highly effective team on that side of the ball so far this season. The squad is tied for 116th in the country in passing yards allowed (306.2 ypg) and is 105th in scoring defense (35.2 ppg), but at least the big guys in the trenches, along the line of scrimmage, have been putting up more of a fight with just 132.4 ypg permitted.
Kaehler, who has appeared in four games, is connecting on 65.4 percent of his pass attempts and has logged six touchdowns, but one of the top receivers for the Aztecs, Colin Lockett (21 catches, 279 yards), is listed as questionable this week with an ankle injury.
Air Force generated just 231 rushing yards, with no one player reaching even 70 yards in the outing as Anthony LaCoste scored the lone touchdown for the visitors on an 18-yard run in the second quarter. The other points came from kicker Will Conant who knocked through a 45-yard field goal to begin the day's scoring. Quarterbacks Karson Roberts and Nate Romine combined to hit on 7- of-16 pass attempts for 82 yards, with both tossing an interception.
Air Force has now scored at least one rushing touchdown in 53 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the country, but clearly that's not good enough to get back into the win column. The team now ranks 11th in the country in rushing with 285.2 ypg, a great number for most teams, but not necessarily for one of the Academies which are all run-first offenses.
The Falcons have four players who have posted at least three rushing touchdowns thus far, while Roberts is on the verge of joining that group with his two TDs on the ground. Roberts has been forced into action following the injury to Kale Pearson and the suspension of Jaleel Awini, so it is understandable that the Falcons are struggling at the moment as they work their way down the depth chart at the QB spot.
Defensively, perhaps the most glaring stat working against the Falcons is the one that says they have the weakest third-down defense in the land, allowing opponents to convert 65.1 percent of the time. No other team among the 123 FBS programs that are considered for the rankings is allowing more than 57 percent conversions right now.
If the Falcons can't get their defense off the field in a timely manner and save some energy for the latter parts of the game, Air Force could be in for a tough time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Diego State 28, Air Force 21
10/09 10:35:08 ET