Sunday, December 22, 2013

Oh, Ye of Little Faith, Rejoice With Us!

Sure, it was a roller coaster ride this season, but our Aztecs certainly closed it out
emphatically with a 49-24 win over Buffalo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. That made it an 8-5 season. And still undefeated on the blue turf!

After an 0-3 start, San Diego State was the only team with that record to bounce back and earn a bowl bid, and win it decisively.

OK, the UNLV game was disappointing, but the Aztecs, led by 18 seniors, were determined to prove they are far better than that. And they sure did!

Right from the start, they took command over a good Buffalo team. At one point, just before the end of the first quarter, the Bulls had no first downs and just 20 yards total offense.

You want your team to be excited? Sure, but some Aztecs got carried away, resulting in costly penalties. A total of 13 for 122 yards. One nullified a kick-off return TD run by Colin Lockett.

Despite that, positives ruled the day…

Adam Muema – 28 carries, 229 yards, 3 TDs, 1 pass caught for 4 yards, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl MVP.

Adam Muema receives MVP trophy (Photo by Ernie Anderson)
Quinn Kaehler – 15 of 28 passing, 2 TDs, plus a 29-yard rushing TD.
Quinn Kaehler's 29-yard TD run (Photo by Ernie Anderson)
Chad Young added to his usual effective blocking by running for a TD.
Touchdown Chad Young! (Photo by Ernie Anderson)
 Scott Graves, out with injuries all year, returned to block two punts.

Scott Graves blocks the first of his two blocked punts (Photo by Ernie Anderson)
The Aztecs kept their winning record intact when playing in cold, snowy games. Was it really cold? Thermometers said below freezing, but I maintain it’s only really cold when you lose.

It’s never too cold when you win! (Photo by Ernie Anderson)

Tip of the hat to the Aztec Warrior. In his traditional skimpy outfit, he did many, many push-ups!

Boise: the Second Home of the Aztecs! (Photo by Ernie Anderson)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Aztecs Playing in Their 4th Straight Bowl Game

Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will be only the 11th bowl game in Aztec history, but significantly it will be their fourth in a row. Only 29 teams in the country have been to four straight bowl games, and only five from non-BCS schools, a mark of the progress the Aztecs have been making under Rocky Long.

Our first bowl game was the Harbor Bowl, here in 1947. Not the most pleasant of memories in my streak. We played a then-powerful Hardin-Simmons and lost 53-0 in front of 12,000 fans in Balboa Stadium. The ground-oriented Cowboys ran for 470 yards and threw for only 75.

The Aztecs’ 27-6 win over San Francisco State in the 1967 Camellia Bowl in Sacramento may be best remembered because the Gators’ QB, who was a very good one, took such a beating he still can feel a hit he took from Jimmy Hight. That QB? Today he is our Offensive Coordinator -- Bob Toledo.

Aztec DL Cliff Hancock (#61) sacks SF State QB Bob Toledo in the 1967 Camellia Bowl. From Del Sudoeste: “Gator QB Bob Toledo entered the game with a helmet that resembled a planetarium. The SF State standout had one star for each of his 45 touchdown passes painted on his headgear. The only stars that were added during the Camellia Bowl were possibly ones in front if his eyes." (Photo from 1968 Del Sudoeste)
Another bowl game that leaps to mind was the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl, played in frigid temperatures with 50 mph winds blowing sand and debris all over the field. We lost, 20-13, even though we held a 293-196 edge in yardage, and controlled the ball for almost 34 minutes.

The 1969 Pasadena Bowl capped an 11-0 season with a 28-7 win over Boston University. Dennis Shaw and John Featherstone dominated the Terriers after they had grabbed a 7-0 lead early. Defense was led by Galen Pavelko’s two interceptions .The big crowd of 41,276 was mostly Aztec fans, who supported in big numbers in those days.

John Featherstone scores vs. Boston U. in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl (Photo by Ernie Anderson)

Saturday’s game in Boise will provide a first for Aztec players. 15 of the 18 Seniors involved will have played in all four of the bowl games – something no other Aztec has enjoyed. Another sign of the growing success of Aztec football.
Latest weather forecast for game day: High of 35; low of 23. 20% chance of snow or rain, and little wind. 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Memorable Aztec Season

And overall, a very satisfying season. An 0-3 start hardly promised a 7-5, bowl-eligible season. But winning seven of their last nine did it for this tough team.

Two of the losses were to the #2 FBS team (Ohio State) and the #2 FCS team (Eastern Illinois).

Will the Aztecs go to a bowl? Not definite yet, but certainly very probable. If so, which one? Check the various forecasters, you will find us in more than one. Wild guess: the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Any one but the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Been there, done that this year. And it’s on a bad day for a road game: Christmas Eve.

Four OT games in one season tied an NCAA record, and the OT win over Boise State was one for the memory book. Those OT games served as evidence of this team’s toughness. No matter what, they hung in there, came back and won three of those four OTs.

Even last night’s loss to UNLV had high points. The first two plays of the game were perfect. Donnel Pumphrey’s 30-yard end-around, followed by Kaehler to Muema to Ruffin to Kaehler, who threw a 39-yard TD pass to Colin Lockett. Aztecs 7-0 with less than one minute gone!

Donnel Pumphrey’s 30-yard run on the first play of the game set up the Kaehler-to-Muema-to-Ruffin-to-Kaehler-to-Lockett 39-yard double-reverse TD pass on the second (photos by Ernie Anderson)
Tim Vizzi tied the Aztec record for TD punt returns in a season with his 71-yard dazzler – his second in two weeks.

Whether you look at individual games or individual performance, 2013 was a football season to remember. From among my 68 seasons, I know I will always treasure this one!