Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Double Lock on West Title; Title Site?

With their impressive 52-14 road win at UNLV, the Aztecs in effect put a double lock on the West Division title after Nevada earlier had blown a big lead and lost to Utah State. Our conference record is 7-0 for first time ever. Saturday night we’ll try to make it 8-0 with a win over Nevada. Then we’ll face Air Force in the Mountain West Championship game, Dec. 5 for the whole thing. Still unanswered is, where?

Beating the Rebels so emphatically was a combined result of excellent offense, defense and special teams.

The offense was led, as usual, by the running game. DJ Pumphrey netted 139 yards on just 14 carries, for an average of a tick less than 10 yards, and scored two TDs. Rashaad Penny played a bigger role than ever, netting 81 yards and a TD. Chase Price played less but ran for 54 yards. Total was 286 yards, with a 6.0 average. Maxwell Smith had another solid game, completing 11 of 17 passes with no INTs for the ninth straight game. He threw for one TD and ran for another. The last time the Aztecs scored 52 or more points on the road was in 1969, a 55-21 win over San Jose State.

Defensively, the Aztecs were dominant in the first half, holding the Rebels scoreless and giving up only 39 rushing yards and 73 passing. A key factor: four turnovers, bringing the season advantage to +17. The total of 7 sacks played another big role.

Highlighting the special teams play was Damontae Kazee’s 66-yard punt return for a TD. And Donny Hageman was solid as ever, making all 7 PATs (he has not missed one all year) and one FG.

Saturday’s home game with the Nevada Wolf Pack is a little hard to figure. They are 6-5, with good wins over New Mexico, 35-17, and San Jose State, 37-34. But they also have some losses that catch your eye. They lost, 23-17, to the UNLV team the Aztecs just crushed; and last Saturday they blew a big lead and lost, 31-27, to Utah State, another team the Aztecs beat decisively. Maybe that’s why the Aztecs are favored by 17.5 points. Kick-off is 7:45. Be there!

After our game and Air Force’s game at New Mexico we’ll see what the decision is for the site of our championship game with the Falcons. Let’s hope it is here, not Colorado Springs. Not only for the home field advantage, but I admit selfishly I’d rather not stand in that low of 23 degrees they are forecasting for Dec. 5.

Rashaad Penny TD; Kyle Kelley and Julian Rochelin sack the UNLV QB (photos by Ernie Anderson)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another Impressive Win; Another Big Challenge

The Aztecs were at their best shutting down Wyoming and rolling offensively in Saturday’s big 38-3 conference victory. It left us the only undefeated team in the MW and with a good hold 6-0 on the West Division title — but not a lock.

Standing between us and that lock is an improved UNLV team. And you don’t have to look back far to find games where we went in as big favorites only to be upset.

In their most recent game the Rebels lost to Colorado State, 48-35, which shows they do score a lot of points. Their biggest win was 80-8 over Idaho State. And they scored 30 points against a very good Northern Illinois. Their best win was 23-17over intrastate rival Nevada. So be ready, Aztecs, just as you were last week after a bye that worried some folks. Among the impressive facts and figures in that Wyoming win…

We were 6 for 6 in the Red Zone.

Maxwell Smith was 11-19, with three TDs and no INTs for the eighth straight game.

Chase Price ran for 152 yards, averaging 8.9 yards a carry; DJ Pumphrey, 140 yards and a 4.3 average.

By contrast, our defense held Brian Hill, one of the top ranking RBs in the country, to only 72 yards.

In addition to tackles for a loss, the defense racked up five sacks.

An interesting stat – in a balanced offense in the two halves, the Aztecs rolled up 220 yards in the first half, 211 in the second.

Keep it up, and we will have the MW Championship playoff game here, Dec. 5.

Mikah Holder caught 2 TD passes; the Cowboy rushing attack could never find its footing against the Aztec D (photos by Ken Ables)