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Aztecs’ defense presents mystery to WSU

SAN DIEGO – There is one sure way to identify a college football assistant coach: his raccoon-like eyes.

They come from hours and hours of video work, either on a computer or a television or even projected on a white board. It’s a staple of modern preparation, examining in minute detail what the opponent will do.

So what happens when the most recent video tells you little?

“It makes it tougher,” said Washington State offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy. “It would be nice to see a few things that you might see in the game.”

When quarterback Marshall Lobbestael leads the Cougars (2-0) to the line of scrimmage at Qualcomm Stadium this afternoon, he may only be guessing what San Diego State’s defense will throw at him.

That’s because, two games into the season, the Aztecs (2-0) have only played triple-option, run-dominant offensive teams. Their defense hasn’t had to face a passing game as sophisticated as WSU’s, so their coverages and pressures have been vanilla.

“From those films, you just have to look at personnel,” Sturdy said of San Diego State’s opening games.

There is a corollary to this, of course. SDSU may know what Washington State wants to do – they’ve seen two games of this year’s video – but they haven’t had to defend it this season. Or even prepare for it until this week.

“I don’t think they have seen anything on film this year of what we might do,” said SDSU head coach Rocky Long, a long-time and highly respected defensive coordinator. “I think there’s a give-and-take on both sides. I think they have a huge advantage, though. What they do is so much different than what we’ve had to (defend) the last two weeks.

“They’re not going to see any different coverages than they’ve seen the first two weeks. They’re not going to see any different pass rushes than they’ve seen the first two weeks. So I think they have a huge advantage.”

Long is underplaying the unique nature of his scheme – while the Aztecs use three linemen and two cornerbacks in the usual manner, the other six players are pretty much interchangeable and can either rush or cover, according to WSU coach Paul Wulff – but still, Sturdy sees how the Cougars execute as the key point.

“It will be a big challenge for us,” he said of the lack of preparation. “But it still comes down to about us. We’ve got to be better at what we do this week.”

And much of that will fall on Lobbestael’s shoulders. The fifth-year senior will start his ninth collegiate game today in relief of injured starter Jeff Tuel (fractured left clavicle)

“I thought he handled the scenario Week 1 superbly,” Sturdy said. “And I thought he handled last week, where he actually had to prepare all week and knew he was going to be the guy, great.

“He got better (last week) at a few things I asked him to get better at, and I would like to see that carry over.”

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