Monday, October 20, 2014

Aztecs Win Key Game

More than once I’ve heard people say the Aztecs’ 20-10 win over Hawaii “wasn’t a pretty win.” To me, a win is a win, especially when it’s a MW Conference game you must win.

Consider all the impressive things our Aztecs accomplished. Facing a defense touted as one of the toughest against the run, we rushed for 283 yards – 182 by DJ Pumphrey, 41 by Chase Price and 38 in a short 2-play appearance by Marcus Stamps.

On what has been a moribund passing front, Quinn Kaehler completed 54% of his passes, even with a sore shoulder, for 174 yards, including a perfect 26-yard TD pass to Lloyd Mills.

On the other side of the ball, our D was very effective. Except for the fluke Hail Mary at the end of the first half, Hawaii did very little. Only 90 yards rushing and 174 passing, and only 10 points for a team averaging 23. Defense also chalked up 2 INTs and had a fumble recovery.

Most important. This put the Aztecs at 3-1, all alone at the top of the MW West Division. Fresno State’s loss to Boise leaves the Aztecs with their destiny in their own hands.

Now a week off to prepare for Nevada, who proved how good they are with a big win over BYU at Provo. Talk about a “big game.” A tough opponent on the road seem to fit that description.

DJ Pumphrey 1st Quarter TD (photo by Ken Ables); Damontae Kazee 4th Quarter INT (photo by Ernie Anderson)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Which Hawaii Team Will Show Up Saturday?

Hawaii this year is a puzzle. They definitely are an improved football team. But how much? And how much when playing on the Mainland. They always have played better when visitors hit the Islands.

They started this season losing to Washington only 17-16, the same Huskies who just destroyed Cal. They lost to Oregon State, only 38-30 in a shoot-out, and we know the Beavers. Even on the road, they have competed well, losing to Colorado, 21-12, and to Rice, 28-19. 

Then, Saturday they came roaring from way behind to beat Wyoming, 48-38, in Aloha Stadium. Obviously, they are no easy mark.

Surprisingly, this series is one of our older ones, dating back to 1939, with the Aztecs losing a game played in Aztec Bowl when it was just three years old and seated 7,500. From there, the series was sketchy until it became a regular in 1980. Overall, the Aztecs hold a 17-9-2 edge, winning 9 of 12 at home, and a surprising 9-6-2 advantage when playing there.

From 1990 to ’98 the Aztecs rang up a 9-game winning-streak, highlighted by Mashall Faulk’s 3 years when the Aztecs rolled up 144 points, with two of those games in Honolulu. We’ve split the last four, the Aztecs taking the last two, including last year’s tough 28-21 win in OT.

The series history has some interesting games, but right now it’s what happens Saturday night at Qualcomm that makes a difference in conference play. By the way, Hawaii is undefeated in MW games. Only one, but a win! So be there to give your support to our Aztecs!

Marshall Faulk rushed for 687 yards in 3 games vs. Hawaii, including 300 yards in 1992; J.R. Tolver and Kassim Osgood combined for 23 receptions, 409 yards and 3 TDs at Hawaii in 2002 (Photos by Ernie Anderson)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Good Win Over New Mexico, But Not Typical Aztec Style

Aztecs win, 24-14. Key MW Conference victory. Now 2-1. But was this our Aztecs? 397 yards rushing and only 73 passing. If we hadn’t taken a knee in those “victory formations” at the end of the game, we’d have had at least 400 yards. Whatever, we’ll take it!

There were those three brilliant TD runs. Donnel Pumphey for 49 in the first quarter; Chase Price for 27 in the third quarter; and then the eye-popping 93-yarder by Donnel, again in the third, this time with hardly a Lobo to avoid. Once he clears, no one catches Donnel!

Having a hundred-yard rusher in a game is always a good sign. But the Aztecs had two – Donnel with a big 246, and Chase with 141.

The defense deserves a special bow for shutting down New Mexco’s triple option, the fourth leading rushing team in America going into the game. For all the Lobos’ efforts, including three they did break for a total of 71 yards, they gained only 152 yards for the game. Our D was so aggressive, usually with two Aztec tacklers making the hit.

If it hadn’t been for rash of turnovers late in the game, including a fumble at the goal line, it would have been hard to find anything to criticize.

Now we get a home game before another bye and then on to the toughest part of the MW schedule. Be there Saturday to support our Aztecs!

Donnel Pumphrey (246 yards) and Chase Price (141 yards) combined for 387 rushing yards vs. New Mexico (photos by Ernie Anderson)

Friday, October 10, 2014

On to New Mexico – A Game We SHOULD Win

The key word is “should.” With one conference loss, the Aztecs are still very much in the hunt for the MW title. I do not believe any team will go undefeated. But our Aztecs cannot afford another MW loss.

The New Mexico series dates back to 1953, when the Aztecs lost a road game, 41-12, but now hold a 24-15 edge. Our first victory was in 1976, beating the Lobos 17-14 in then-San Diego Stadium. That was the start of a 5-game win streak. The Aztecs’ real streak against New Mexico started in 1984 and ran for 13 straight wins.

Right now we are on a 4-game win streak. It began the year after the worst, most embarrassing loss in my memory. It was 2008 and we went to Albuquerque for a game that was nearly a toss-up. Maybe the Lobos were a little better. Then, the opening whistle blew and the Lobos blew by the Aztecs from the very beginning, with the final score of 70-7 looking like it had to be a misprint.

This week’s game? With our injuries still a problem and our young QB still very inexperienced, nothing is a sure bet, even though the Aztecs are 4-point favorites. Me? Unless the officials influence the outcome, I see us coming home winners, a step in the right direction for the MW title.

Pete Inge looks to flatten another Lobo in the Aztecs’ 35-7 win in 1979; DeMarco Sampson gets behind two Lobo defenders for a Hail Mary TD pass at the end of the first half in the Aztecs’ 30-20 win in 2010 (photos by Ernie Anderson)