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)