Nevada (3-2) at San Diego State (1-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 4, 9 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Qualcomm Stadium (54.000) -- San Diego, California. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Nevada 3-0, SDSU 0-2. Away Record: Nevada 0-2, SDSU 1-1. Neutral Record: Nevada 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Conference Record: Nevada 2-0, SDSU 0-0. Series Record: San Diego State leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The San Diego State Aztecs finally get their Mountain West Conference schedule off the ground, as they challenge the Nevada Wolf Pack at Qualcomm Stadium on Friday night.
The campaign was beginning to look rather dismal for the Aztecs after they opened with three straight defeats against the likes of Eastern Illinois, Ohio State and Oregon State. However, last weekend the team rebounded with a solid 26-16 victory over New Mexico State on the road. While it was certainly a positive sign for the crew, one has to remember that the Aggies are currently tied with Southern Miss for the longest overall losing streak in the country at 16 in a row.
The good news for the Aztecs is that they've won seven straight conference games, tying them for the ninth-longest active streak in the nation.
As for Nevada, it has fallen hard versus a pair of nationally-ranked programs (UCLA and Florida State) on the road by a combined score of 120-27. Against lesser opponents the Pack has survived with three wins in as many tries, the latest being a 45-42 triumph over visiting Air Force in MWC play last weekend.
Nevada, which is now directed by first-year head coach Brian Polian, lost to SDSU last season in overtime, 39-38, which means the Aztecs hold a slim 3-2 edge in the all-time series.
Cody Fajardo's two-yard touchdown run with under two minutes remaining was just enough to get the Nevada Wolf Pack into the win column with the three- point triumph over Air Force last Saturday night. Fajardo, who had missed the two previous games for Nevada with a sprained knee, not only ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns for the Pack, he also converted 38-of-54 passes for 389 yards and three more TDs in the triumph.
Brandon Wimberly caught 15 passes for 134 yards and a score, while Aaron Bradley reeled in 11 balls for 135 yards and a TD for the hosts. Nevada ran a total of 100 plays in the meeting, generating 599 yards of offense, while the Falcons gained 453 yards on 38 fewer snaps.
Because the Falcons ran the ball almost exclusively, Nevada now ranks 120th in the nation in stopping opponents on the ground, giving up a staggering 269.6 ypg. The group has done better to take the air out of a foe's passing attack, permitting just 208.2 ypg, but still all of those combined yards have resulted in 35.6 ppg being scored by the competition.
Were it not for the meetings against UC Davis and Hawaii, during which Nevada gave up just 16 combined points, the numbers could look even worse.
Luckily, the Pack has Fajardo back on the field and it is his versatility that makes the Nevada offense roll. The quarterback is not only completing passes at a 70.1 percent clip, leading to five touchdowns and no interceptions, he is also second on the team with 223 rushing yards and has logged five of its eight scores on the ground.
Trailing by 16 points in the second quarter last Saturday night at New Mexico State, the Aztecs got the wake-up call they needed as they closed out the meeting with 26 unanswered points to claim the double-digit victory.
Donnel Pumphrey ran for a career-high 167 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries for San Diego State, while Quinn Kaehler threw for 229 yards on 22- of-34 passing, and Ezell Ruffin caught eight balls for 101 yards in the comeback win. Defensively, David Lamar chipped in on the scoreboard when he returned a blocked PAT for two points in the second quarter following the last points scored by NMSU.
Considering San Diego State ranks 118th in the nation with a turnover margin of minus-1.5, the blocked PAT was a major accomplishment. In fact, any serious pressure that the defense or special teams is able to apply is a welcomed sight, because the group is permitting more than 400 yards at the moment and that is leading to 33.0 ppg, which ranks the team 99th in the country.
A positive sign is that SDSU has now allowed fewer than 40 rushing yards in back-to-back games for the first time since the 1970 campaign, but still the offense needs to step up and make big plays in order to keep pace with Fajardo. The problem is, the passing attack has nearly three times as many interceptions (eight) as TDs (three), and that's not going to scare anyone these days.
Playing at home on a Friday night might give the Aztecs a bit of a boost, but the offense really has not shown nearly enough to convince fans that they can compete with a quick-strike offense like Nevada.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 35, San Diego State 23
10/02 10:32:49 ET