Team preview: San Diego State

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(All information as of July 1, 2005)


Things happened fast for coach Tom Craft when he returned to his alma mater in 2002.

His offense ranked among the nation's best that season, lighting up scoreboards with 330-plus passing yards per game. The defense caught up in 2003 and held opponents to just 17 offensive touchdowns. Then came 2004, when a rash of injuries put a road block in the path of progress.

In 2005, his program needs to get back in the fast lane.

"We need to get to six wins as quick as we can," said Craft, citing the magic number for bowl eligibility, and a number that could ensure that he sticks around for a few more years.

The Aztecs are the only Mountain West team not to play in a bowl game over the league's first six seasons. San Diego State has played in just three bowl games in the last 35 seasons and none since 1998, the last time it posted a winning season.

In April, the NCAA approved a second bowl game for the city of San Diego. The Poinsettia Bowl has a Mountain West tie-in and will be played on Dec. 22, a week before the Holiday Bowl. Having another bowl in their back yard only adds to the pressure on Craft's program.

But he believes the Aztecs are up to the challenge and seems genuinely optimistic.

"We have gone through a transition period," Craft said. "Now we have some proven players and a nice blend on the roster. This should be our most balanced team."

The key will be rebuilding a defense that lost linebackers Matt McCoy and Kirk Morrison and safety Marviel Underwood to the 2005 NFL draft. Last year's interception leader, the top two sack artists and the top seven tacklers are all gone.