SDSU, Utah Have Found Points Easier to Produce Than Victories

Times Staff Writer

In a strange way, the Western Athletic Conference football game between San Diego State and Utah tonight at 7 might be considered a dream matchup. After all, it is not every day that two teams with such woeful defenses and potent offenses face each other.

The game could be a scoring bonanza for the decades. Get out your calculators and follow along.

With the season a month old, SDSU and Utah have combined to allow an average of 83.1 points per game and score an average of 63.3. They also have one victory between them in seven games--a 45-10 Utah victory over winless Utah State three weeks ago. That should be evidence enough of the value of defense over offense.

“I’ve said along that we are not going to be a good football team until we start playing consistent defense,” SDSU Coach Al Luginbill said. “We haven’t done that yet.”


The Aztecs (0-2-1, 0-1 in WAC) are ranked 102nd out of 106 teams in scoring defense in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s Division I-A, allowing an average of 40.3 points a game. Utah (1-3, 0-1) is 104th, having allowed an average of 42.8 points. The Utes are coming off a 67-20 loss at Hawaii.

The offenses are at the other end. SDSU is ranked 14th, scoring an average of 34.0 points. Utah is 25th with a 29.3-point average.

But in the face of such overwhelming statistics, Luginbill is hoping his defense makes a stand.

“I would like to stay away from a high-scoring game,” Luginbill said.

The closest thing either of these teams has played to a low-scoring game was the Aztecs’ 28-25 loss to UCLA three weeks ago.

The similarities do not end there.

Both teams feature tall junior quarterbacks.

The Aztecs have Dan McGwire, who at 6-feet-8 is the tallest quarterback in NCAA history and whose 310.3 average yards in total offense rank third in the country. The Utes counter with Scott Mitchell, two inches shorter and a few yards behind at 277.0 per game, good for eighth nationally.


Despite such statistical success, the Utes’ offense has not been as strong as expected. Much of the problem has to do with the pressure placed on Mitchell--teams have blitzing with great success.

“Nobody expected after four games for Utah to be where they are,” Luginbill said. “For whatever reason, they have not been able to protect Scott Mitchell. He has been under so much harassment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a quarterback in the first four games of a season receive as much harassment as he has.”

Luginbill said a key will be how much pressure the Aztecs can apply. After not recording a sack in its first two games, SDSU had five against Cal State Fullerton in a 41-41 tie last Saturday. The Utes realize they have to do a better job of protecting Mitchell and diversifying their offense.

Last year, Utah had running back Eddie Johnson to take some pressure off. This year, the running game is ranked 97th in the country, averaging 78.3 yards per game.


“We have to establish a ground attack to take pressure off our quarterback,” Utah Coach Jim Fassel said. “The protection hasn’t been as good and neither have the wide receivers (as last year). At the beginning of the season, I thought we had the potential to be as good.”

The Utes were coming off an embarrassing 61-18 loss at Wyoming when they met the Aztecs last year and ran away in the second half for a 41-20 victory. That triggered a four-game, season-ending victory streak.

The Aztecs are hoping history does not repeat itself.

Aztec Notes


San Diego State safety Morey Paul, who was thrown out of last week’s 41-41 tie against Cal State Fullerton for a flagrant personal foul, made the trip but will not start, Coach Al Luginbill said. He will be replaced by Johnny Walker, a redshirt sophomore from Southwest High School. . . . Luginbill said he has not decided if he will use freshman Andy Trakas or senior Tom Wurth on kickoffs. Luginbill said he has been disappointed with both the distance and placement of Trakas’ kickoffs. The Aztecs surrendered strong field position several times to Fullerton because of either short kicks or long returns. “Good kickoff coverage begins with a good kickoff,” Luginbill said. Injury update: Cornerback Marlon Andrews (dislocated shoulder), reserve nickel back David Cooper (knee) and tight end Ray Rowe (separated shoulder) are out. Defensive tackle Milt Wilson (broken left hand) and offensive tackle Damon Baldwin (dislocated elbow) are expected to play, trainer Brian Barry said. . . . Junior wide receiver Patrick Rowe, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery 2 1/2 weeks ago, was at practice Thursday, tossing a football around. But Luginbill has said he will redshirt Rowe rather than have him play only part of the season