FACTS & STATS: Site: Qualcomm Stadium (54.000) -- San Diego, California. Television: Time Warner Cable. Home Record: UNLV 1-4, SDSU 4-1. Away Record: UNLV 0-3, SDSU 1-2. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, SDSU 0-0. Conference Record: UNLV 1-2, SDSU 3-1. Series Record: San Diego State leads, 13-8.
GAME NOTES: Winners of three straight games, the San Diego State Aztecs go in search of their sixth victory overall as they entertain the UNLV Rebels in Mountain West Conference action at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday.
Tied for second place in the MWC standings at 3-1 with the likes of Nevada, Fresno State and Air Force, the Aztecs did something last weekend they hadn't done in more than two decades and that was come back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to capture a thrilling 39-38 overtime win against the aforementioned Wolf Pack in Reno.
Not only was the win for SDSU the team's first since 1991 when trailing by at least 10 points in the final frame, it was the first overtime game overall for the program since 1998. The team has now won four straight overtime affairs and for the second time this season snapped an opponent's win streak that had reached at least five games.
Meanwhile, the Rebels are a team in disarray to put it mildly. Under head coach Bobby Hauck the team has won a total of just five games in three years and this season the win total stands at one game, thanks to a surprising 38-35 triumph over Air Force back on Sept. 22 which served to snap an eight-game slide overall. Since then, UNLV has gone on to drop four in a row, including a 32-7 decision against nationally-ranked Boise State on the road last weekend.
San Diego State owns a 13-8 advantage in the all-time series with UNLV, thanks in part to a 31-14 win in last year's conference clash.
Against the Broncos on the blue turf, UNLV scored a defensive touchdown for the first time in two years as Sonny Sanitoa forced a fumble in the fourth quarter and it was returned 30 yards by Kenneth Penny for the team's only points of the meeting.
At one point in the second half, the UNLV offense put together a massive 20- play drive that consumed more than eight minutes, but the final result was a missed field goal which was just par for the course against the Broncos. Quarterback Nick Sherry ended up with his weakest passing effort of the season as he converted just 14-of-31 for 71 yards, was sacked twice and picked off two times.
The bad news for the Rebels this week is Sherry is listed as questionable due to an ailing back. If Sherry is unable to go, that puts even more pressure on running backs Bradley Randle and Tim Cornett to pick up the slack and try to keep UNLV competitive.
While the offense is certainly a concern for the Rebels, the defense is perhaps the most critical aspect right now. The team is allowing more than 205 ypg on the ground and is permitting 35.5 ppg which is ninth in the league and 104th in the country. Every opponent the team has faced from the Football Bowl Subdivision this season has scored at least 30 points.
Since putting up only 12 points in the season opener against Washington on the road, scoring has not been a problem for the Aztecs at all. In fact, the team has delivered no less than 34 points in any game since then, which might be why head coach Rocky Long stunned everyone last weekend when, after scoring a touchdown in overtime, decided to go for the immediate win rather than settle for what likely would have been a second extra frame.
With backup quarterback Adam Dingwell taking over for Ryan Katz after the latter was injured early in the meeting, the Aztecs overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half and eventually captured the win when Dingwell found Adam Roberts all alone in the end zone for a successful two-point conversion.
Celebrating his 21st birthday, Dingwell finished the contest 14-of-23 for 177 yards and three touchdowns, good news considering Katz is now out indefinitely due to an ankle injury. With two touchdown receptions in the second half, Gavin Escobar has already established himself as one of Dingwell's favorite targets for sure. Through eight games, Escobar leads the team in receptions (26) and yardage (317) and is tied for the lead with four receiving scores.
With Dingwell now taking over the offense for SDSU, the defense will certainly have to try and pick up some of the slack and the best way for them to do that is to continue applying pressure at the line of scrimmage which has already resulted in 7.4 tackles for loss per game. Seeing as how the UNLV offense might be trying out someone else at quarterback this week as well, getting a strong push into the backfield would absolutely benefit the Aztecs.
With his performance last week, Dingwell has proven he can operate under pressure and getting to play at home in front of a favorable fan base this week should add to his confidence.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Diego State 41, UNLV 20Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 27, 8:00 p.m. (et).