BYU is surging, while San Diego State is beat up as the rivalry renews

There was a stretch of four games where BYU’s starting quarterback was a contested topic leading up to game time, that’s no longer the case. Zach Wilson has returned from injury and reclaimed his job. He’ll helm the offense as the regular season comes to a close at San Diego State on Saturday.

And his backups, Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney, proved they were more than capable of taking over the gig if necessary, although they got banged up in the process.

But does San Diego State have that same depth at quarterback? We’ll find out.

“I've never been in a situation where I've had three different quarterbacks hurt at different times, all these running backs, four offensive linemen at various times,” assistant coach Jeff Grimes said. “I think it speaks to the depth and resilience of our team.”

SDSU season starter Ryan Agnew aggravated a calf injury in last week's loss at Hawaii and will sit out the game. In his place, redshirt freshman Carson Baker will get his first career start.

It will actually be Baker's first collegiate snaps.

However, SDSU coach Rocky Long said that Agnew will be on stand-by should he be needed in an emergency. The Aztecs have five quarterbacks on the roster, but only two (Baker and sophomore Jordon Brookshire) are healthy.

With it being the season finale, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said the Cougars will be aggressive, especially with more than three weeks to recover before playing in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.

BYU will also go from playing one of the nation’s worst defenses in UMass to one of the best in SDSU. The Aztecs’s defense could be the toughest the Cougars have faced since the season opener against Utah.

“Experience-wise, you can tell that they’re well-coached and you can tell that they’re tough — they take the same personality that Rocky Long has and I expect their best shot,” Sitake said.

While the Aztecs’ rushing defense is third-best in the nation, their pass defense isn’t as strong. The Cougars may need to play through the air.

Offensively, SDSU has a history of producing great running backs. Looking back, Aztec running back Marshall Faulk always gave BYU trouble in the early 1990s. However, SDSU has only ran for more than 200 yards in two games this season — at New Mexico State and against Fresno State. Senior Juwan Washington leads the ground game with 474 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 140 carries.

“They have a great scheme and I think they want to run the ball,” Sitake said. “We’ve had some issues with it in the past and we’re just looking forward to seeing how we match up this weekend.”

BYU defensive back D’Angelo Mandell, a San Diego native, is excited to play in front of loved ones. The sophomore was going to try to get as many tickets as possible to his family and friends. Players are given four tickets each, but can transfer them to teammates if they don’t need them.

“I’m definitely going to try — not that I haven’t played hard this season, but I’ll play a little extra harder,” Mandell said. “A little more juice because I get to be home in front of the crowd.”


At SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, Calif.

Kickoff » Saturday, 7 p.m. MT

TV » CBS Sports Network

Radio » BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2; BYU Sports Network; KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM

Records » BYU 7-4; SDSU 8-3

All-time series » BYU leads 28-7-1

Last meeting » BYU 23, SDSU 6 (Dec. 20, 2012)

About USU » The Cougars will be looking to close out their regular season on a six-game winning streak. … Quarterback Zach Wilson had a season-best performance at UMass, throwing for 293 yards and four touchdowns on 17 of 20 passing. … Wide receiver Micah Simon has had at least one reception in every game this season.

About SDSU » The Aztecs lost a heartbreaker to Hawaii last week when their rally fell short on a missed 48-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left. … The loss allowed the Road Warriors to claim the Mountain West Conference West Division title. … Quarterback Carson Baker will get his first career start – and first collegiate snaps – Saturday against BYU.