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Aztec Q&A With the Mt. West Connection

A pair of late 4th quarter interceptions, including a pick-6 by Steven Nelson, #2 above, made the difference in last year's Oregon St.-San Diego St. game.
A pair of late 4th quarter interceptions, including a pick-6 by Steven Nelson, #2 above, made the difference in last year's Oregon St.-San Diego St. game.

Oregon St. fans are fairly familiar with San Diego St., having faced the Aztecs in one of last year's more interesting contests. And San Diego St. still has the same starting quarterback, who made his collegiate debut in that role against Oregon St. last year.

Former Oregon St. defensive coordinator Rocky Long remains the head coach at San Diego St . as well.

But just as there have been some changes with the Beavers, so to is it time to get an update on the Aztecs, so we got together with Rafael from the crew from the Mt. West Connection to exchange information.

Here's our answers to their questions about Oregon St.

San Diego St. comes in 1-1, having downed Norther Arizona 38-7 in their opener, before falling 31-27 at North Carolina 2 weeks ago, after having led by multiple scores in the 4th quarter.

Lets find out more about what that means going forward.

BTD: Aztec Quarterback Quentin Kaehler is known for his ball security; he's only had 3 games in which he has thrown more than 1 interception, if any at all. However, one of them was against Oregon St., and the other was in San Diego St.'s last game at North Carolina. And in both of them, one of the interceptions went for a pick-6, and wound up in one way or another being the game decider. Which Kaehler will we see Saturday night? What does he have to do to avoid a repeat of these close losses as a result of his interceptions?

Rafael: Quinn Kaehler doesn't have the strongest arm in the nation, which makes longer pass attempts all the more risky. In last week's game, Kaehler's form didn't look sharp, and he was inaccurate on longer attempts as a result. He had an open man on the pick-6, but sailed it over his target's head as he was running to his left. The second pick looked almost identical except his man wasn't open. The second and third picks resulted from poor decision making more than anything. Throwing the ball away was the best option on picks 2 and three, and he's got to be better at recognizing that option.

BTD: In the absence of Adam Muema, Donnel Pumphrey appears to be coming into his own as a dual threat running back. Describe the diminutive (5'9". 170 lbs.) sophomore's style, and the strengths of his game that Oregon St. fans should watch for.

Rafael: Pumphrey's size makes him that much more exciting to watch. I heard someone last week describe him as a "human bobble-head." As is the case with most small backs, Pumphrey can slip through gaps and make guys miss in the open field. . His cuts are pretty quick and his acceleration allows him to get back to top speed after a change in direction. He's got a pretty decent 2014 highlight reel going and he's only played two games.

BTD: San Diego St. had a 2 touchdown second half lead, and a 2 score advantage in the 4th quarter, only to get overhauled by the Tar Heels. Did the Aztecs wear down against a deeper team on the road? Or was there some other primary factor in the late loss?

Rafael: There were quite a bit of Aztec fans calling for offensive coordinator Bob Toledo's head after the loss to UNC. The interception that sealed the game came on 1st and goal and the Aztecs had two timeouts left. Kaehler threw two near picks on the final drive prior to his last throw and the Tar Heels had trouble containing the run. QB play and play calling are big parts of the game obviously, but personally, I think the SDSU defense was worn down at the end and didn't have the depth to muzzle a top-25 team.

BTD: Has such a tough loss had a deflating affect on the team? Or is the fact that they hung with a top 25 team encouraged them going forward?

Rafael: Aztec players seemed pretty positive after the loss, they knew they let it go but definitely realized their potential. In their minds the conference is wide open, so I think it was a good boost in confidence for a fairly young team to hang with a ranked team.

BTD: Head coach Rocky Long is known for his aggressive defensive schemes, with blitzes of all kinds coming from all over. Is that an accurate assessment of how he is calling his defenses this season? Has he thrown in any new wrinkles this season?

Rafael: Injuries to the linebacker group has forced Long to manipulate his scheme from the 3-3-5. He plays a linebacker at the line making it more like a 4-2-5. It makes it a little harder to disguise some things and the Aztecs aren't having a whole lot of success getting to the quarterback. However, the two interceptions on the season stat sheet have come from the front-7, so they're still playing effectively.

BTD: Who should Oregon St. fans watch for to be the biggest factors defensively?

Rafael: Through two games, the Aztec defense has only given up 255 yards on ground at a 3.7 yards/carry average. Terron Ward will be their first big test of the season. The secondary is young and inexperienced, but has yet to be exploited. Cornerback J.J. Whitaker is the best coverage man on the field for SDSU and it should be fun to watch him go head to head with Victor Bolden.

BTD: Oregon St. quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 3 touchdowns last year in San Diego. What will the Aztecs do to prevent that from happening again?

Rafael: SDSU will have its hands full trying to contain Mannion and the passing attack. The Beavers look to be very deep at wide receiver whereas the Aztec secondary is not. Mannion has a fair shot to get his 19th career game of 300+ passing yards, but if the Aztecs can shut down the run and turn the Beavers one-dimensional, they have enough playmakers to steal a victory.

BTD: Is there a wild card, maybe on special teams, or some other factor, that San Diego St. can play against the Beavers that could be a game changer?

Rafael: Given the kicking woes of SDSU last season, it's hard not to point to kicker Donny Hageman. Although it's not a sexy pick, he did hit from 49-yards with room to spare against UNC, so he definitely has the range to win a game late. Other than Hageman, wide receiver Eric Judge could surprise some folks. He's shown some potential so far this season, and with Kaehler's favorite target Ezell Ruffin out with a broken collarbone, this could be Judge's coming out party.

Thanks, Rafael, for trading scouting reports with us!