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Breaking Down The San Diego State Aztecs

Penn State picked up its first conference win of the season last Saturday, but now will return to its out-of-conference slate as the San Diego Aztecs come to town.

Need To Know

  • Teams: San Diego State (1-2, 0-0) vs. Penn State (2-1, 1-0)
  • Venue: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
  • Time and TV: 3:30 p.m. EST/Big Ten Network
  • Forecast: Low 70s, partly cloudy, with a no chance of rain.

Head Coach | Rocky Long

Long is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Aztecs, previously serving as the defensive coordinator for two seasons under Brady Hoke. Since taking over in 2011, Long’s constructed a steady, successful program that’s made four consecutive bowl games. The 65-year old head coach even won San Diego State its first Mountain West Conference Championship in school history in 2012.


San Diego State doesn’t boast a potent offense, averaging only 23.7 points per game through their first three games against San Diego, Cal, and South Alabama. It’ll look to run the ball, and will be headlined by Donnel Pumphrey — one of the team’s few dangerous weapons offensively. The 5-foot-9, 180 pound junior ran for 1,873 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but hasn’t had as much success in 2015. With the Aztecs breaking in a couple of new pieces along the offensive line, Pumphrey has been held to a mediocre 3.66 yards per carry. This is good news for a Penn State front seven that specializes in stopping the run.

It doesn’t get much better for San Diego State through the air, as the Aztecs have experienced passing woes similar to what Penn State is currently enduring. Incumbent starter Maxwell Smith transferred from Kentucky and entered the Aztec program with high expectations — ones that have yet to be met. He’s been inconsistent, only completing 47 percent of his passes while throwing for a mere 131.3 yards per game.


Operating out of a 3-3-5 defensive scheme, San Diego State will give the Penn State offense — if nothing else — a much different look than it’s seen all season. With three defensive lineman, three linebackers, and five defensive backs, it’s a defensive philosophy predicated on athleticism and speed. When you have the athletes, it can be extremely successful. When you don’t, it leaves you undersized and susceptible to a power running game.

With eight projected starters returning, the Aztec defense was expected to be stout, but that hasn’t quite been the case early on. Allowing 35 points to Cal and star quarterback Jared Goff isn’t all that shocking, but giving up 34 points to Sun Belt resident South Alabama isn’t what many would come to expect of a experienced defense. When you consider San Diego State is giving up 161.33 yards per game — significantly worse than the figure Rutgers allowed — you can expect Penn State to unleash Saquon Barkley and the running game.

Special Teams

While San Diego State may have problems offensively and defensively, its placekicker has been the lone constant. Donny Hageman may not be the next Sebastian Janikowski, but he’s one of the better kickers Penn State will face this season. The senior is in his second season as the kicker for the Aztecs, connecting on 5-of-6 field goals thus far. He has a long of 54 yards, with his only miss coming from the 40-49 yard range. With San Diego State’s offense likely to sputter, Hageman’s leg could be a key component to a San Diego State upset.

The Lions and Aztecs square off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26.

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About the Author

Patrick Koerbler

Patrick Koerbler is a senior Journalism major/History minor from the mean streets of Palmerton, PA. His career goals include becoming the Director of Public Relations for the New York Yankees, and co-hosting a Penn State football podcast with Matt McGloin. Patrick is also a ledge, his interests include sandwiches, and his best friend is Andrew Wiggins. For more fun, you can follow him on Twitter -- @GoodDudePat -- or contact him via email at [email protected] Go Sixers.


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