In the past when the UCLA Bruins played San Diego State, you’d probably say something like, “Eh, this one will be easy!” leading up to the game? This year, it seems like what used to be an easy win in the past may even be a toss up. When the Bruins host the San Diego State Aztecs this weekend, fans are hoping to see a different team than the one that showed up in Cincinnati with fumbles and a collapsing pocket that made our quarterback run for his life. A gassed defense because the offense can’t seem to stay on the field long enough is never going to cut it this year.
San Diego State ended 2018 7-5, good enough for the Frisco Bowl where they were blanked 27-0 by Ohio. Let’s take a look at the offense UCLA is going to have to beat in their home opener.
Last weekend, the Aztecs started redshirt senior Ryan Agnew out of Southlake, Texas and this will be his second year commanding the offense. Coming out of high school, Agnew was considered a dual threat quarterback, but saw very limited game action until his junior year. His stats aren’t amazing by any standard—in 2018, he threw for over 1,600 yards with a 51.6 completion percentage, including ten touchdowns and six interceptions.
Last weekend against Weber State, SDSU was only able to put six points on the board and Agnew only threw for 108 yards. So, the Aztecs are more than likely not going to win this one in the air. Last week, even with two fumbles and pressure from the Cincinnati defense, Dorian Thompson-Robinson was still able to put together 156 yards. Agnew also had a fumble. So, it looks like this game is not exactly going to be a battle of elite quarterbacks.
While the Aztecs have first-team all-Mountain West selection junior Keith Ismael starting at center, they still allowed 33 sacks last year. So, the offensive line has a lot of work to do if they are going to protect Agnew. The projected starting right tackle is Jacob Capra, a transfer from the University of Oregon who was a two-time All-Academic Pac-12 Honorable Mention in 2017 and 2018. Capra could be one of the answers to this struggling line, as he only allowed two sacks and committed only two penalties over 15 games with the Ducks. Alongside Capra on the right will be redshirt freshman William Dunkle at guard.
On the left, Daishawn Dixon will line up at guard and Kyle Spalding will take the tackle position. Both are upperclassmen with experience and Spalding got his chance to start with the loss of Tyler Roemer to the Oakland Raiders.
The go-to man is no question at this point. UCLA is going to have to stop redshirt senior Juwan Washington, who not only had 55 yards on the ground last weekend, but also three receptions. Even with these weak numbers, Washington, by far, had the best offensive game last weekend.
Also running the ball will be sophomore Jordan Byrd and redshirt sophomore Chance Bell. Byrd actually had a better game than Washington when considering averages, due to the fact that he had 50 yards on only 5 carries. Byrd was given the chance to start last weekend as the Aztecs lost starting running back Chase Jasmin to an ankle injury and it is still up in the air as to how long he’ll be out.
Agnew hit a total of seven receivers last weekend, but hit redshirt freshman Jesse Matthews and sophomores Elijah Kothe and B.J. Busbee fairly evenly. Matthews and Kothe snagged six receptions each and combined for 49 yards, while Busbee added another ten yards. These numbers are pretty low but, remember, this team only had 238 total yards of offense against Weber State.
Well, on paper this game should be a lot easier than the loss to Cincinnati last week. It’s no secret that San Diego struggled offensively and Weber State, an FCS team which went 5-7 last season, is no football powerhouse. After some terrible mistakes last week, hopefully a solid win against the Aztecs will get the ball rolling in the right direction for the Bruins.