Staff ReporterThe Horned Frogs head to California this weekend to play San Diego State in a game that may have more to do with superstition than preparation.
“We have what I call ‘the jinx of the last road game,'” head coach Gary Patterson said. “(We lost to) San Jose State in 2000, East Carolina in 2002 and Southern Mississippi in 2003. If we want to do the things we planned we would, we have to go out and win.”
When told that some of the student body still remembers 2003’s disappointing loss to Southern Mississippi, senior safety Jeremy Modkins was quick to close the matter.
“Trust me, it’s in the back of my mind, too,” Modkins said. “But we don’t worry about a past jinx.”
The Aztecs, however, are not the 9-4 Golden Eagles of 2003.
SDSU currently sits seventh in the Mountain West Conference with a 3-5 record, but two of those losses have come from teams currently in the top 15 of the Associated Press Top 25. However, SDSU also lost to conference cellar-dweller UNLV three weeks ago on a 52-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining.
Senior offensive lineman Herbert Taylor said the Aztecs are more than just the minor obstacle their record suggests.
“We still have to stay focused on the game plan,” Taylor said. “We can’t take anyone lightly.”
Patterson also said SDSU’s up-and-down season is little indication of its natural ability.
“San Diego State is very athletic,” Patterson said. “They have very good skill players; they have a very good secondary, good special teams, good linebackers.”
One of those athletic players is quarterback Kevin O’Connell, a 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound sophomore who averages 13 rushes a game and has 15 touchdowns this season – 12 passing and three rushing.
Modkins said O’Connell’s size and speed presents a difficult match-up for any defense.
“He’s pretty good at what he’s going to do,” Modkins said. “He’s real big, one of the biggest we’ll play against this year.”
Patterson said the defense will have to constantly adjust to keep O’Connell under control.
“You have to take away the wide receivers, but you can’t let the quarterback run, either,” Patterson said. “You have to change up the coverage a bit.”
The chess match between the SDSU offense and TCU defense will heat up even more on red zone possessions. The Horned Frogs lead the MWC in red-zone defense, allowing scores on a meager 69.2 percent of opposing possessions, while the Aztecs lead the conference in red-zone offense, scoring 91.7 percent of the time.
TCU has a chance to clinch the MWC title with a win this weekend and a Colorado State loss Friday at New Mexico, though Patterson said he is focused more on winning one week at a time rather than looking too far ahead.
“In about three weeks, I’ll have a comment about it,” Patterson said. “But then I’ll also be real upset about SMU.”