The Coast News Group

Jay Paris: To beat Cal, SDSU needs to keep it on the down low

Rocky Long was on a roll and when isn’t he?

The San Diego State football coach was going on and on about California quarterback Jared Goff. The Aztecs play the Bears on Saturday, and like most weeks, Long was laying it on thick in praising an opponent.

“He’s as accurate as any quarterback I’ve ever seen,’’ Long said, and he’s seen plenty. “Every throw is right on the money.’’

One can bank on Long hyping a rival. But Long is right on the money, too.

“He never misses an open receiver,’’ Long said. “I wish he would.’’

Wishing won’t help much at Cal. The Aztecs could be in for a long day in Strawberry Canyon if their offense doesn’t blossom.

Say again?

SDSU, with its attack that hugs the ground, is made for games like this. Goff, a sensational talent, will likely play on Sundays. But he’s not so good he can heave touchdown passes when near the student section.

“He has a hard time scoring when sitting on the bench,’’ Long said.

But the Aztecs had a difficult go running the ball against the University of San Diego, which raises one big ol’ red flag. If the Aztecs are to notch a Pac-12 road win, their rushing attack must improve.

“We have to play much better on offense,’’ he said.

But didn’t SDSU tack 37 points on the overmatched Torerors?

Yes and no.

The numbers don’t lie but how they were accumulated tell the story.

The defense scored on two interception returns as USD turned the ball over six times.

Offensively, the Aztecs got a choppy performance from their running game (179 yards, one touchdown) and pedestrian effort from new quarterback Maxwell Smith (9 of 21,100 yards and an interception).

Long, as he usually does, knows why.

“Our offensive line’s technique and fundaments went totally out the window,’’ Long said. “They were very, very physical but if you don’t do it right, it doesn’t matter.’’

Long chalks it up to his big five being excited about hitting someone with a different uniform. He does so with his fingers crossed.

“We have to play much better than we did last week,’’ he said.

They better, because there aren’t too many college quarterbacks at Goff’s level.

The Bears had the nation’s 10th best offense last year with its up-tempo, no-huddle offense.

In thumping Grambling State, 73-14, in the opener, Goff threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns — in the first half.

“It’s up to us to put as much pressure on him as we can,’’ defensive end Jon Sanchez said. “We got to get him on the ground.’’

The best way is to keep his feet on the sidelines.

A heavy dose of Donnel Pumphrey (only 71 yards against USD) does that if the Aztecs return to their strength: running the football, which will take an improved effort from those opening the holes.

SDSU scooted for 2,809 yards last season, the second-highest total in school history.

It’s a history that shows zero wins in three road dates with the Bears.

Now that’s rocky.

“All we got to do is to do it once,’’ Long said. “Then it happens all the time — I’ve seen it happen. We’ll get it done sooner or later.’’

If accomplishing it sooner, the Aztecs will to work up a lather — on the ground.

Contact Jay Paris at Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.