Fresh off its 28-21 controversial win over then-No. 23 Arizona State, San Diego State is hoping to make it three in a row for its last non-conference game Saturday against Eastern Michigan.
The Aztecs have never faced the Eagles before and both teams are 2-1, having beaten a Power-5 team. ASU for San Diego State and Purdue for Eastern Michigan.
There ends the similarity. The Eagles have a strong passing game. The Aztecs a strong running game, having produced two 2,000-yard rushers in the past five years with another one in the making. But that doesn’t mean that coach Rocky Long wasn’t worried about the matchup. Mid-American Conference schools shouldn’t be taken lightly, he said.
“My experience is that every time you play a school from this league, there’s one thing you’re going to be sure of: they’re going to be physical, they’re going to be tough, they’re going to play you hard all the way to the end,” Long said. I’ve got great respect for that league and how they play football.”
The running game will be key for the Aztecs, even with Juwan Washington not being 100 percent with a minor toe injury, Chase Jasmin has proven he can make critical plays for the Aztecs, last week’s fumble notwithstanding.
Eastern Michigan’s run defense has allowed 230 yards per game and 5.91 yards per carry. Long, however, is still worried. In week two’s game against Purdue, the closest match to SDSU the Eagles have faced this season, Eastern Michigan’s defense was bad at stopping the running game but still managed to win 20-19.
“For us to win, we’re going to have to run the ball well. Now, this is a typical team from that league, they’re huge,” Long said. “They’re huge up front on offense and they’re huge up front on defense. The size they have on defense, they have some quality linebackers, too.”
Quarterback Ryan Agnew, subbing in for the injured Christian Chapman, said he doesn’t look at the other team’s defensive statistics. His job is to go out and execute the game plan to the best of his ability and leave everything else to the coaches, he said.
“We don’t really try to worry about the people on the other side of the ball; we focus on what we can do, how we can get better, how we can improve,” Agnew said. “On Saturday nights, we see the results and see where we are.”
Even with the Eagles’ weak running game, the passing game alone should be enough of a concern for the Aztecs.
EMU’s quarterback Tyler Wiegers is among the top signal callers in the Football Bowl Subdivision in completion percentage (76.7, third nationally) and yards per pass attempt (10.2, 11th nationally). His favorite target, Blake Banham, is among the top 10 in the country with 23 receptions and 361 receiving yards.
Also, the Aztecs have never had to face the spread before.
“They run the spread, they’ve got a two-quarterback system. One’s a little bit bigger, probably throws a little bit better,” Long said. “The other one still throws it just fine, but he’s a little bit more of a runner-scrambler, so you have to have two defensive game plans going in.”
The Eagles, though, have yet to face an offense like the Aztecs, so it’ll be a guessing game on who’s going to be on top, he said.