San Diego State sees No. 16 Oregon State as an opportunity to revisit some recent Aztecs history and topple a Pac-12 team.
The Aztecs are more than 24-point underdogs against the Beavers on Saturday in Corvallis. Oregon State is San Diego State’s second straight Pac-12 opponent this season following a 35-10 loss at home to UCLA last weekend.
But while San Diego State (2-1) has lost to its last three Pac-12 foes, the team can still look back to 2021 for encouragement, when the Aztecs beat Arizona and Utah in back-to-back nonconference games.
“(We) take it as a challenge and just show up and play,” senior defensive lineman Garrett Fountain said. “We have to play our game and if we play to the standards that we hold for ourselves, then we have the ability to make things happen.”
Overall, San Diego State is 7-5 against the Pac-12 since 2016.
The game could be a precursor of what’s to come. Oregon State and Washington State are currently the lone teams left in the Pac-12 for next season after the other 10 teams bolted in realignment. They open conference play against each other next week.
There has been speculation the Beavers and the Cougars might try to lure Mountain West Conference teams into a new Pac-12, or that they might merge into the MWC outright. San Diego State is among 12 teams in the Group of Five conference.
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith wasn’t going to speculate about the future when asked about it at his Monday news conference, noting only that the Mountain West has seen success against the Pac-12 in recent years.
“I mean, you’re locked in on the week approach, and this week, where they’re at, where we’re at. … I’ve got a lot of respect for them. Mountain West teams, those guys are competitive and have beaten Pac-12 teams the last three years. So that’s what we think about,” Smith said.
Oregon State (2-0) has decisive wins over San Jose State and UC Davis to start the season. The Beavers have won six straight dating back to last season, their longest streak since 2013. A win over the Aztecs would give the Beavers their first seven-game winning streak since the 2000 season.
While a lot of attention has gone to new Oregon State starting quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and his receivers, running back Damien Martinez was praised by San Diego State coach Brady Hoke this week.
Martinez is averaging 124.5 rushing yards per game, second in the conference. The sophomore from Texas has gone over the 100-yard mark eight times in his short career.
“He’s a guy who’s very physical, but he’s quick, really good balance. Can get in and out of his burst really smoothly, and then he’s a physical guy too.” Hoke said. “He’s not afraid to put it down and run through you.”
The Aztecs had planned to stay at a hotel down the road a bit from Corvallis in Eugene. But there was a problem: A fire in February damaged the hotel, which is still closed and undergoing repairs.
Finding another hotel in the area was tough, because the Oregon Ducks are also at home Saturday and Eugene is also hosting the Prefontaine Classic, an elite international track meet.
So San Diego State opted to stay in Portland, more than a 90-minute drive to the north. That means the team will have an early wake-up call for breakfast before heading to the game, set for 12:30 p.m.
MAKE NO MISTAKE
Oregon State hasn’t turned the ball over this season, one of just nine teams nationwide without a turnover.
“We’re not going into games with the ultimate goal is just, ‘Oh, don’t turn it over.’ We’ve got a mindset that we want to be aggressive,” Smith said. “But after two, we’ll take it. I’m sure we’re going to turn it over at some point throughout the season but the longer it goes, the better.”