Associated Press Photo
BOISE, Idaho (Sports Network) - The 19th-ranked Boise State Broncos try to run their win streak to eight in a row this weekend as they host the San Diego State Aztecs in Mountain West Conference action on the blue turf.
The Broncos, who lost the season opener against Michigan State by a score of 17-13, have not been defeated since and winning all but two of those last seven games in comfortable fashion. Last weekend Boise State continued its domination over Wyoming by delivering a 45-14 victory over the Cowboys in Laramie. In addition to running their conference win streak to seven in a row, the Broncos also moved up in the most recent BCS standings to 19 which means they continue to own the longest active streak in the BCS standings at 40 straight weeks.
As for the Aztecs, they hit a bit of a rough patch earlier in the campaign when they were a game below .500 at 2-3, but they have since leveled off by winning four consecutive decisions. Last weekend the team picked up a 24-13 win over the UNLV Rebels in conference play, which means SDSU has outscored the opposition during this current run by a combined 153-79. The 74-point difference is the greatest the team has enjoyed during a four-game stretch since 1995 and the latest victory also made the program bowl eligible.
"Being eligible to go to the third bowl in a row is a record," San Diego State head coach Rocky Long observed after the win. "I guess it's never happened at San Diego State. So that's exciting. To be honest with you, we still got three games to play. We're going to enjoy the heck out of this victory because I've been around a long time where a team will come off a big win and then not play well the next week and not win."
Boise State won the only previous matchup between the squads last year in a 52-35 final, as the Aztecs turned the ball over three times in the first quarter.
It may not have been pretty, but last week sophomore Adam Dingwell became the first quarterback for the Aztecs to win his first start since 1997 and if he plays well enough this weekend and somehow finds a way to conquer the Broncos, he'll become the first signal-caller since 1991 to win his first two career starts for San Diego State.
Against the Rebels, Dingwell completed half of his 26 pass attempts for 231 yards and two touchdowns, one of those going to Gavin Escobar who finished with four catches for 108 yards. Helping out on the ground were Adam Muema and Walter Kazee who logged 143 and 105 yards rushing, respectively, the latter also making a trip into the end zone.
"I thought he did a nice job," coach Long said of his quarterback's performance. "I thought he controlled the game. I thought he did well getting us in the right running play with some checks. I thought he threw it pretty well."
As long as Dingwell can control the game, in the absence of an injured Ryan Katz, maybe he won't have to play over his head in order for the Aztecs to be competitive this weekend. In reality, the passing attack hasn't been the hallmark of the Aztecs through nine games anyway, it has been the running attack which is currently ranked fourth in the conference and 18th in the nation with 223.1 ypg.
Where San Diego State will be truly tested at Boise State will be on the defensive side of the ball and whether or not they are prepared for the methodical manner in which the Broncos tend to pick apart opponents, with surgical precision.
Against Wyoming last time out the Broncos took their time carving up the Cowboys, scoring just seven points in the first quarter and 10 in the second period before blowing the game wide open with three touchdowns in a span of just over 10 minutes in the third stanza.
D.J. Harper was a driving force in the win as he ran for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while the Broncos as a group gained 214 yards and landed in the end zone five times on 36 rushing attempts. Quarterback Joe Southwick kept the ball moving with 198 yards on 20 completions and with just one interception he didn't hurt the squad.
The Broncos held Wyoming to just 54 net rushing yards and sacked Brett Smith four times which kept the signal-caller on his toes and now the group is first in the conference and 15th in the nation in total defense with just 311.0 ypg allowed.
Outside of giving up 29 points to New Mexico in late September, the Broncos have really kept opponents from picking up steam in the red zone, so much so that the squad is now fifth in the country in points allowed (13.6 ppg) and that goes a long way in masking the fact that Southwick continues to struggle with the offense that used to run like a finely tuned machine.