FACTS & STATS: Site: Qualcomm Stadium (54.000) -- San Diego, California. Television: ROOT Sports, FSN-SD. Home Record: UNM 1-3, SDSU 1-3. Away Record: UNM 1-2, SDSU 2-1. Neutral Record: UNM 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Conference Record: UNM 0-3, SDSU 2-1. Series Record: San Diego State leads, 23-15.
GAME NOTES: Coming off a disappointing outcome against a nationally-ranked opponent last weekend, the San Diego State Aztecs try to get back on course this Saturday when they entertain the New Mexico Lobos in Mountain West Conference play at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Aztecs, who started the 2013 campaign with three straight defeats against the likes of Eastern Illinois, Ohio State and Oregon State, appeared to turn the corner by putting together a three-game win streak as they headed into a meeting with Fresno State last Saturday night at home. San Diego State had a chance to win the game in regulation, but the squad had a field goal blocked in the final seconds, pushing the meeting to overtime where the hosts came up short in a 35-28 final.
While the Aztecs were having their hearts ripped out by the one team in the MWC that still has the potential to shake up the BCS this year, New Mexico was enjoying some time off. The Lobos, who are winless in three league bouts, bowed to one of the newest additions to the MWC back on Oct. 19, Utah State, by a score of 45-10 at home. The defeat was the second in a row and the fourth in five games for a UNM group that still has road dates against Fresno State and Boise State remaining to close out the campaign.
San Diego State leads the all-time series, 23-15, in part due to a 35-7 romp over UNM in the latest meeting two seasons ago.
Head coach Bob Davie has created a running powerhouse in Albuquerque, with the Lobos ranking third in the nation with 322.3 ypg on the ground, the only problem is that effort has not equated into significant wins to this point. Against New Mexico State, a heated rival, the Lobos charged for a staggering 541 yards and seven touchdowns, both of which are conference highs among MWC programs, but then there are also games like the one versus USU where New Mexico managed only 160 net yards and a single score.
Kasey Carrier continues to pose the biggest threat, having run for 858 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games, while quarterback Cole Gautsche also puts himself in harm's way with 74 carries for 523 yards and six TDs.
The big problem for the UNM offense is a lack of passing ability, as the team has tossed just five TDs and is averaging a mere 99.9 ypg through the air. In all but two games the Lobos have registered single-digit completions, which makes receivers like Marquis Bundy (13 catches, 176 yards, two TDs) and Carlos Wiggins (eight catches, 138 yards, two TDs) almost non-factors.
You would think that if a team was more than adept at running the ball on offense, the defense would be a bit better at stopping the run since that's all it does during practice, but that's not the case with the Lobos who are 120th in the country with 253.4 ypg allowed. Because the group is so lenient in that area, UNM ranks 113th in the nation in scoring defense with an average yield of 37.3 ppg.
With more than two weeks to prepare for the arrival of nationally-ranked Fresno State last weekend, the Aztecs appeared to have done their homework as they held one of the highest-scoring teams in the country to only seven points in the first half, but it was the SDSU offense that eventually let the hosts down at Qualcomm.
Quarterback Quinn Kaehler converted 21-of-39 pass attempts for 337 yards and an interception, with Ezell Ruffin delivering on 10 catches for 181 yards. Running back Adam Muema accounted for 111 yards and two TDs on the ground in the losing effort.
Defensively, the Aztecs tightened up against FSU quarterback Derek Carr who, despite finishing with close to 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air, appeared rather mortal compared to the sort of numbers that have made him a Heisman candidate this season. On the ground, the Bulldogs were limited to a mere 43 net yards on 19 attempts, although the visitors did come up with a pair of rushing scores along the way.
San Diego State's run defense has been top-notch this season, ranking 21st in the country while allowing just 124.9 ypg, but that's only one piece of the puzzle on that side of the ball. The bigger issue is a pass defense that is being scorched for 282.7 ypg (110th), with foes converting attempts at a 65.4 percent clip.
Ruffin showed that he can be a viable threat for the Aztecs as a pass catcher, but still his effort versus FSU seemed to be more a case of the exception and not necessarily the rule. Of his team-high 40 receptions, which have led to 658 yards, only one has wound up in the end zone.
A more likely mode of attack for the Aztecs comes from Muema and Donnel Pumphrey, who have combined for more than 900 yards and 10 of the unit's 14 rushing touchdowns this season.
Because the Lobos struggle against opposing rushing attacks, this will be an opportunity for San Diego State to let Muema and Pumphrey run free. Take the so-called passing game out of the mix for the Aztecs and they are likely to operate more efficiently this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Diego State 41, New Mexico 24
Saturday, November 2, 8 p.m. (et).