Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Important Win; Maybe the Start of Good Things!

A lot of 0-3 teams getting off to an 0-16 start early in the second quarter of their fourth game, and on the road, would just figure, “It’s not our year.”

That’s not what our Aztecs did in Las Cruces. They shut out New Mexico State for the final 42 minutes and 52 seconds, and scored 26 unanswered points to win, 26-16.

They did it with a defense that came alive and shut the door. And with a balanced offense –212 yards passing and 229 yards rushing.  The brightest factor was a banner performance by RB Donnel Pumphrey, whose speed and elusiveness made the difference. He ran for 167 net yards, averaging 8.8 yards a carry, and scored three TDs, one on a brilliant 43-yard run.

Donnel Pumphrey scores his first of three TDs vs. New Mexico State (Photo by Ernie Anderson)
If there was a true “turning point,” it may well have been an odd one. After the Aggies scored their second touchdown at the start of the second quarter, and appeared to be on their way to a big upset, the Aztecs blocked the PAT try and David Lamar returned it all the way for a 2-point score. I am convinced you could sense a here-we-go-again attitude in the Aggies. 
David Lamar returns a blocked PAT for a defensive 2-point conversion (Photo by Ken Ables)
Suffice it say, they never scored again. And, more significant, after rolling up 170 yards to that point, the Aggies had only 98 yards the rest of the way.

Now, with a Friday night game here against Nevada, let’s see if we can get off to a fast start! 

Go Aztecs!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Series with Aggies is Old, But Not a Lot of Games

The first game in our series with New Mexico State was played 77 years ago, with 4,000 fans in little Quesenberry Field in Las Cruces, and ended in a 7-7 tie. That was a good Aztec team, losing only to the Marines that season.

The next year, 1937, it was a 20-0 Aztec win in Aztec Bowl, with 7,500 fans. That was a very tough Aztec team, going 7-1, and giving up only 16 points all season! Their one loss, to Redlands, was 10-9. They opened the season with four shut-outs before that loss. And, no, I did not see either of those games!

But I did see the next one in 1949 in Aztec Bowl, and was in Las Cruces for a disappointing 26-6 loss in 1955. The next six games, I random years, were all here and all wins. The last game was 2010 in Las Cruces where Aztecs won big, 41-21.

Dick Adair carries vs. New Mexico A&M, as the Aggies were known in 1949 (SDSU Photo)

The most memorable game in the series was the Aztecs’ 70-21 victory in 1969. Three NCAA records that were set in that game still stand or have been tied: most TD passes by a team in a game, 10; most TD passes in a half, 7 by Dennis Shaw; most TD passes in a game, both teams, 13.

Aztec QB Dennis Shaw (photo by Ernie Anderson)

History in a series like this doesn’t mean much, but even with today’s game on the road, I sure see us ready for a win. With the progress shown in the Oregon State game (offset in the minds of some by the tag-end loss), this can be the turn-around game for this season.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Disappointing Loss, But with Signs of Improvement

Maybe because it’s still so painfully fresh in mind, but right now the 34-30 loss to Oregon State was the most disappointing I can remember in 68 seasons of Aztec football. To lose a 9-point lead with 5:18 remaining, after playing so well on both sides of the ball, it’s just hard to believe it happened.

Still, you can look on the positive side. A huge improvement over the first two games. A much sharper offense, starting with the opening drive. A defense that did well against one of the nation’s best offenses.

Donnel Pumphrey scores on the opening drive (photo by Ken Ables)
I’m not taking shots at coaches or players here, just sharing what must be an even greater sense of disappointment than mine. Now, with nine games left, learn from this one, then put it behind and get ready to win the road game at New Mexico State. 

One oddity I cannot figure was the sea of orange on the north side of the stadium. We’ve had big LDS crowds to support BYU, and Fresno State fans travel well, But no one ever has taken over one whole side of the stadium. How did all those OSU fans commandeer seats that should have been filled by Aztec season ticket holders?

Since I am not a coach, I guess I can make this comment without fear of any sanctions against SDSU: that had to be the most inept officiating crew I have seen in years. Not necessarily against us, but just inept. I especially enjoyed the penalty signaled against the wrong team!

Rocky Long convinces the officials that the penalty they called on the Aztecs was actually committed by Oregon State (photo by Ken Ables)
Go Aztecs!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Will history repeat?

Tonight the Aztecs will face a very good Pac12 team in Oregon State. The Beavers will be favored to win. But that does not dictate the actual outcome. Consider: Sept. 21 is the date of a bright accomplishment in Aztec football history. 17 years ago today a highly touted Oklahoma Sooners team came into then-Jack Murphy Stadium, and the Aztecs didn't just win. They killed 'em, 51-31. Coach Ted Tollner's Aztec offense was led by QB Billy Blanton, WR Will Blackwell, RB George Jones and All-American OL Kyle Turley.
George Jones and Kyle Turley (Photos by Ernie Anderson)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It Was 22 Years Ago Today...

While there's no Aztec game this week, September 14 is a big day in Aztec history. On this day in 1991 the football world learned the name Marshall Faulk as he came off the bench to gain a then-NCAA 386 yards rushing vs. Pacific. Marshall set nine NCAA records in that game, eight of which still stand! Adding in receiving and return yards, Marshall gained a total of 422 all-purpose yards and scored 44 points!
Marshall Faulk carries for some of his 386 rushing yards vs. Pacific, Sept. 14, 1991. (Photo by Ernie Anderson)
And that's not all that happened that day: September 14, 1991, is the day Ronnie Hillman was born.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Greetings from Columbus!

In 2003 the Aztecs almost upset 2nd-ranked Ohio St losing 16-13. Fans gave us standing O as we left field. What’ll they do if we win today?
Kirk Morrison and the Darkside D kept the Buckeye O out of the end zone in 2003 (photo by Ernie Anderson)