After falling to two of the top 15 teams in the country in consecutive weeks, the CSU football team is ready to face a less highly-acclaimed opponent.
The Rams (3-4, 1-2 MWC) will try to stop a two game losing streak as they head to California to face the San Diego State Aztecs (1-6, 0-3 MWC) on Saturday night.
CSU has struggled against SDSU recently, losing in their last three meetings, including a 24-20 heartbreaker last season.
Safety Matt Pagnotta explained just how important this game is to the Rams’ future.
“It’s a huge game for us in all aspects, there is no getting around that,” the senior said. “We’ve talked all week about how big it would be to win a conference game on the road. Getting back to 4-4 is a big mark for us looking at the rest of the season.”
The Aztecs come into Saturday’s conference showdown on a three game losing skid, including a 70-7 defeat at the hands of New Mexico last week.
Rams’ head coach Steve Fairchild hopes to take advantage of SDSU’s shaky run defense, but isn’t expecting it to be easy. The Aztecs rank last in the country against the run, giving up an average of 292 yards per game.
“They can always stack enough guys in the box to make it difficult,” Fairchild said. “We’re going to have to play our physical brand of football, our backs are going to have to break a few tackles, and hopefully we can get something started Saturday night.”
CSU running backs Kyle Bell and Gartrell Johnson combined for 132 yards rushing against the Aztecs last year.
SDSU has also had trouble running the ball during the 2008 season, averaging a conference-worst 50 yards per game. Brand Sullivan leads all Aztec running backs with 180 total rushing yards so far this year.
Pagnotta said that he is treating SDSU’s run game like any other teams and explained that CSU can’t focus solely on trying to stop the pass.
“We know they want to throw the ball but they have talented athletes all over the field,” he said. “We can’t sit there and focus on one thing or they will pop a big run on you.”
Fairchild agreed adding that stopping the ground game should always be a primary focus.
“If you can’t stop the run you get into some real bad situations defensively,” the San Diego native said. “We’ll concentrate on stopping it and like-wise you try and establish our running game, trying to maintain balance.”
Although SDSU displays the MWC’s worst overall record, CSU running back John Mosure isn’t taking the game lightly. The senior finds motivation in avenging a losing streak.
“It’s hard. But then we also have to look back to the last three years, and we haven’t beaten them,” he said. “Each game has been pretty close so we have to go in and act like we are playing TCU or Utah.”
Pagnotta isn’t underestimating SDSU, even after they fell by 63 points last week.
“I don’t really look at it like that,” he said. “Everybody in the conference has talented guys, and they (SDSU) have been on a string of tough luck. We have been there before. You never overlook somebody, and you take the mind set that every game is going to be a tough game and hopefully come out with a win.”
Football beat writer Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.