The Aztecs play their second PAC-12 opponent of the year and are looking to even their record to 1-1 against the PAC. While the main storyline for the Aztecs is the first start for quarterback Ryan Agnew, San Diego State will look to do what it does best, run the ball. For that they will look to running back Juwan Washington.
Washington is the next running back in a long list of backs that have come through San Diego State. He follows star backs Rashaad Penny and Donnel Pumphrey as the premier running back in the Aztec backfield. Through two games this season Washington is averaging 157 yards per game. Today he faces off against an Arizona State defense that has only allowed 65 rushing yards all season (two games)!
Washington has patiently waited his turn to be the featured back. Even though he has always averaged an excellent number of yards per carry, he has been stuck behind two star running backs. As a freshman Washington ran for 454 yards and six touchdowns, however he was stuck behind Pumphrey, who broke the single-season rushing record with 2000 plus yards and Penny who ran for more than 1000. In his sophomore year he backed up Penny and ran for 759 yards and seven touchdowns. Now the opportunity for Washington has arrived and he is the true workhorse back in the San Diego State run game. He has 60 carries in two games, which is more than he had as a freshman and almost half as many carries as he had as a sophomore.
Scoring points against the Sun Devils will be paramount as the Arizona State defense is stout. They currently rank 16th in the nation in points allowed 10.0 per game. It will be important for the Aztecs to have a balanced attack. Running the ball will be a battle of strength versus strength, therefore a lot will be put on Agnew’s shoulders. Arizona State has allowed 532 yards through the air in two games, which is good for 100th in the nation (the Aztecs are a little better at 512). Agnew can throw the ball when necessary, which may be more than the coaching staff wants, however he can also pick up first downs with his legs. It will be important for the offensive line to play better than it has the first two games.
Arizona State moves the ball through the air on offense. Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins has thrown for 617 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception this season. The Aztecs secondary will be tested once again, they need to start playing better and not allow the big play through the air. Last year Wilkins threw for 298 yards and two scores, however he did get sacked five times in the Sun Devil loss to the Aztecs. This year through two games Wilkins has been sacked twice all season. San Diego State will need Kyahva Tezino and company to get to Wilkins with consistency.
Arizona State also has a good running game. The team averages 155 yards per game, which is one more than the Aztecs do. Stopping the run will be a tough task for the San Diego State rush defense, which is ranked sixth in the nation in yards allowed. The battle will begin in the trenches and the defensive line, led by Myles Cheatum and Anthony Luke, will need to set the tone by dominating early.
It is concerning that the Arizona State offense is balanced and good. The defense is just as formidable and the Aztecs will have their hands full. This will not be a repeat of last year’s game, however the Aztecs still can win this. They have to play near perfect today, which means limit turnovers on offense, create turnovers on defense, and avoid penalties. The Aztecs are different than the Sun Devils’ other opponents, now they just have to go out there and get a W.