Cowboys, Aztecs headed in opposite directions

Updated: October 24, 2003, 2:31 AM ET

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- San Diego State could use a week off to heal and regroup. Wyoming can't wait to take the field again.

Saturday's meeting at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego features two teams headed in different directions.

After an impressive 3-1 start including a near-upset of Ohio State, San Diego State (3-5, 0-3 Mountain West) has seen the wheels come off. The Aztecs have lost four straight, including a 30-7 home loss to New Mexico last week.

The Aztecs, who had the No. 5 passing offense last season, have scored only 13 points in their last two games and are 0-3 in league play for only the second time as a Division I member.

The Cowboys (3-4, 1-1) have won three games for the first time since 1999, have a modest two-game victory streak and are coming off their best defensive performance of the season in a 13-10 win over BYU.

But Wyoming is still an underdog because of San Diego State's powerful defense (16th-stingiest nationally in yards allowed) and the fact the Cowboys haven't won in Mission Valley since 1995. The Pokes have dropped five of the last six meetings.

While the Cowboys are gaining confidence and especially making strides on defense, coach Joe Glenn said there are still areas of concern.

"We're still going through some growing pains with three first-year starters on the offensive line," he said. "That's tough for them to go against all-conference players."

The offense sputtered against BYU, scoring only six points, but the defense -- which has been improving weekly -- carried the day. The Cowboys produced their most sacks in one game (four) since 2000 and held BYU below its offensive yardage and scoring averages.

San Diego State's attack has been inconsistent most of the season, especially inside the opponent's 20-yard line -- the "red zone." In addition, the Aztecs committed six turnovers against the Lobos.

"We just need to start sustaining and being a little more consistent," Aztecs coach Tom Craft said. "For every four or five good plays we seemed to have one bad one which became critical."

Injuries have also been a big reason for San Diego State's slide.

Adam Hall, the nation's No. 5 total offense leader in 2002, was hurt in the season opener and missed several games. Wide receivers Jeff Webb and Devin Pitts are banged up. Defensive lineman Johnathan Bailes (ankle) and defensive end Brandon Rager (shoulder) are ailing.

The Aztecs have also been hampered by a wounded offensive line and secondary.

"The injuries are starting to mount up to the point where it is affecting us," Craft said. "We would love to have a bye, but it's not coming until next week."

Still, the defense has been strong, anchored by linebackers Kirk Morrison and Matt McCoy.

The Aztecs are giving up a league-low 300 yards per game, and only 20.4 points. San Diego State is eighth in the nation in pass defense, yielding 160.1 yards per game.

The Aztecs will provide a stern test for Casey Bramlet, the Cowboys' career passing leader (8,455 yards). He has connected on 55.7 percent of his passes (141 of 253) for 1,808 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has been intercepted only four times.

The Cowboys are 30th nationally in passing offense (265.4 yards per game), but 101st in total defense. However, since a 48-24 loss to Oklahoma State in the second game, the Cowboys have given up fewer points each time out.

Linebackers Randy Tscharner and Tyler Gottschalk, who spurred the win over BYU with a 60-yard interception return for a TD, lead Cowboy defenders with 52 tackles each. Defensive lineman John Flora is coming on strong.

Craft said the Aztecs can still wind up with a good season.

"Our focus right now is if we can win this game, equal our win output of last year ... get to a bye, and then try to regroup a little bit," he said. "We've got three good games remaining where we can make an impact in the conference."

For Glenn, it's a matter of capitalizing on a bit of momentum, a rarity in Laramie in recent years.

"I'm just trying to get the kids to believe how good they are," he said.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. Mountain time

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