Friday, November 29, 2013

Rebels Pose Challenge in Aztecs’ 12th Game

There is no long history to the Aztec-Rebel series; the first game was played in 1977, with the Aztecs winning handily, 31-7, in what was then San Diego Stadium. But the pendulum has swung back and forth, with the Aztecs now holding a 14-8 edge and riding a 3-game win streak.

The Aztecs have won 9 of the last 11 to take over the lead. But the Rebels always are tough at home, with games there split 5-5. The last game the Aztecs lost was at Sam Boyd Stadium, 28-24, in 2009. And here’s a game with a familiar ring to it right now: in 1997, the Aztecs beat UNLV, 20-17, in overtime!

UNLV has laid a trap for the Aztecs more than once. A classic example was Nov.16, 1996. The Rebels had not won a game all season. By contrast, the Aztecs were 6-2 and already had beaten Oklahoma, 51-31, and a ranked Wyoming, 28-24, and ended the season 8-3. But UNLV, who did not win another game, beat the Aztecs, 44-42, when we missed a FG right at the end.

So beware -- and the Rebels are a lot better team this season. Coach Bobby Hauck, who had achieved great success at Montana, is now in his fourth year of building a solid UNLV program, and it is paying off.

They are a bowl-eligible 6-5, with wins over New Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada and Air Force. They lost to Mountain Division leader Utah State by only 28-24. They average 30 points a game; rush for 240 and pass for another 186 per game. So, again, beware!

Walter Kazee gets airborne on his 2nd quarter TD in the Aztecs’ 24-13 win over UNLV in 2012 (photo by Ken Ables)


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another Dramatic OT Win for Our Aztecs!

Does Rocky script these games? They’re obviously designed to keep us on the edge of our seats, holding our breath, and making sure that most games go into overtime just to extend the suspense. Our 4 OT games (so far!) this season ties the NCAA record.

Scripted or not, last night’s impressive 34-31 win over a very good Boise State team was one for the memory book. One that no true Aztec fan will ever forget. One that probably elevates the Aztecs from “bowl eligible” to “which bowl are we going to?”

In this win there were no flashy rushing totals, such as we’ve enjoyed in recent weeks. But there definitely were some very significant facts and figures. Consider…

In the first quarter, after holding Boise State to only 3 yards in a 3-and-out 48-second first possession, the Aztecs mounted a sustained drive, going 70 yards in 7:02 for a fast 7-0 lead. Colin Lockett’s 40-yard reception of a Quinn Kaehler pass was biggest part of the drive.

Colin Lockett hauls in a 40-yard pass from Quinn Kaehler in the first quarter 
(photo by Ken Ables)
That first quarter set the tone. The Aztecs’ time of possession was 12:45 to only 2:15 for the Broncos. And the Broncos’ total offense was just 3 yards! At the half, they still had only 49 yards.

Time of possession for the whole game (regulation, not OT): Aztecs, 36:42; BSU, 23:18.

Third down conversions: Aztecs, 8 of 19; Boise, 2 of 15.

Fourth down conversions: Aztecs, 3 of 4; Boise, 0 of 1. And that stop was one key to the win!

The Aztecs had 4 sacks, plus other effective pressure on the QB.

Two big plays within about 5 minutes of the 4th quarter put the Aztecs in a position to win in OT. First, J.J. Whittaker stepped in front of a BSU receiver for a clean interception and raced 14 yards into the end zone for the TD. A crucial PAT by Wes Feer, taking over for the injured Seamus McMorrow, made it 21-21. This was Whittaker’s second pivotal INT of the game, having made a possible TD-saving INT at the Aztec 12 in the second quarter.

J.J. Whittaker’s 2nd quarter interception (photo by Ken Ables)

Boise quickly regained the lead, 28-21, held the Aztecs and then on their next possession were forced to punt. Tim Vizzi took the punt on the run and raced down the sideline 41 yards for the tying TD, thanks to another Feer PAT.

Overtime. The Aztecs won the toss, elected to defend. Defense got tough and forced the Broncos to settle for a FG. The Aztecs took over and got to the 10 with two strong runs by Adam Muema. Then Kaehler drilled a 10-yard TD pass to Lockett right in the corner of the end zone, and the Aztecs win, 34-31.
Colin Lockett’s game-winning catch in OT (photo by Ernie Anderson)
Now, on to UNLV, where a win would make the Aztecs 8-4 after an 0-3 start. Thanks, Rocky – thanks for a dramatic season!