Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Now the Mountain West Schedule Begins

Fresno State, Saturday, October 3, 7:30 pm, Aztec Warrior Stadium. That’s where it begins -- the Mountain West conference schedule, and the Aztecs are undefeated in conference play.

A prosaic intro to a very important game for our Aztecs. But it is a fact that, after a 1-3 start, the conference is where the focus must be right now. And Fresno State is a good game to begin the march to a winning season.  We have not beaten them since 2011.

The Bulldogs appear to be down a notch this season. They are 1-3 after losing to San Jose State, 49-23 – a team they have been beating soundly. They opened the season with a 34-13 win over Abilene Christian, but then lost big to two very highly ranked teams – 73-21 to Ole Miss and 45-24 to Utah, a team that rolled up 62 points on Oregon, before the San Jose setback.

They have a big veteran RB in Senior Marteze Waller who averages 4.5 yards a carry and 94.8 yards a game. So far, they have not had a solid passing game, splitting that role almost equally among three QBs. Zack Greenlee, is back after a suspension. They are averaging 192.5 yards a game. The early betting lines have the Aztecs favored by 9 to 11 points.

Last Saturday’s game at Penn State had an eerie feeling when our 14-13 lead evaporated quickly as the Nittany Lions scored not one but two TDs this time in the final 1:03 of the first half. That’s three straight games! I don’t know if anybody keeps track of records like that, but hard to believe it has ever happened before.  At least we did not give up another TD in the opening seconds of the second half. But it sure changed the complexion of the game.

Never mind what you may have read, this game deserves a big turnout, and it would be exciting to see the Aztecs make a turn around right now, with at least eight games left to play.

Mikah Holder’s TD catch gave the Aztecs a 14-13 lead over Penn St. in the first half; Rashaad Penny returned his second kickoff for a TD tying the Aztec season record for KOR TDs. He’s currently the #1 kickoff returner in the NCAA. (Photos by Ernie Anderson)



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Big Challenge for Our Aztecs

I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to the game at Penn State. Based on our first three games, there’s no way to know how the Aztecs will perform. But this could be the game where the good things we do outweigh the mistakes.

Beaver Stadium, with its 106,572 capacity, is the second largest stadium in America, so it will be a huge, hostile crowd with overpowering noise. Interestingly, Aztec teams in recent years have played well in similar situations – at Michigan, the biggest at 107,601, and Ohio State, third largest with 104,944. For me, this will the 87th stadium where I have watched the Aztecs play.

The Nittany Lions, one of the better Big 10 teams, disappointed their fans by losing their opener to Temple, 27-10, but came back to beat Buffalo (remember the Aztecs’ good win over Buffalo in the Potato Bowl?), 27-14, and Rutgers, 28-3. They are good, but reports indicate their QB Christian Hackenberg, so far has not been as effective as his great record in the past. We’ll see what happens Saturday.

Last Saturday’s loss to South Alabama was a surprise, but that can happen when you are playing an “unknown.” Their QB and eight other players they got when UAB dropped football, sure made a difference. This week the Jaguars play North Carolina State. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Well, at least this week’s Aztec game is on TV -- the BigTen channel at 12:30 pm. Watch it.

Lloyd Mills returned in a big way Saturday with 106 punt return yards and a TD pass to Maxwell Smith. (Photos by Ken Ables)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Time for a Smooth Aztec Win

Saturday’s game with the University of South Alabama is a little hard to figure. But one thing that’s for sure, it’s time for the 2015 Aztecs to put together a smooth game. Minimal penalties for starters. A more efficient passing game. And the running game looking more like last year.

The Jaguars are not a bad team, so don’t assume an easy win because we aren’t familiar with them. They played in a bowl game last year. They picked up nine good players when UAB dropped football, and one of the key additions is their talented QB, Cody Clements, who has completed 57% of his passes in two games.

On the betting lines, our Aztecs are favored by something like 17 points, which sounds a bit generous to me, but I hope it proves to be right.

If you will permit me, let me tell you why this new home-and-home contract has a special meaning for me. Next year we will play them in Mobile. And that’s one road trip I definitely do not want to miss. More than for the game. Mobile Bay is where my old battleship, the USS Alabama BB-60, is now a wonderful museum, much as the Midway is here in San Diego.

I was still in the main engine room of the Mighty A in August of 1946. A month later, I was a Freshman at San Diego State, sports editor of The Aztec and seeing the first of my 759 games. So next year, playing there with a chance to visit my old ship again, will close a personally satisfying 70-year loop, about 773 games later. I hope you can understand my anticipation and forgive me for wandering away from the important subject for this week…

BEAT the University of Alabama Jaguars! And you try to be there!

At my station in the engine room of the USS Alabama, August 1946 and December 2011. 718 Aztec football games between photos, and 41 games since.