Monday, December 19, 2016

Aztec Victory of Historic Proportions!

With a couple of days to think about it, and watching the game video, I keep trying to decide how I should rank Saturday’s big Aztec win in the Vegas Bowl. I’m always reluctant to start making judgments too soon after an impressive victory. Now, after 783 games I’ve seen, the most cautious, most conservative comment I can make is that I cannot think of any single game to top all of the significant factors in this one.

Start with the game itself. Beating Houston, 34-10, a team that had knocked off two highly ranked teams already this year, slots this game well up the ladder with no other factors.

Add to that the fact that we started off slowly, trailing 10-0 before the first quarter ended, then came back to totally dominate them the rest of the way. Two numbers seem obvious factors: 7 sacks and 4 interceptions!

Then look at the historic numbers! DJ Pumphrey ran for 115 yards to up his career total to 6,405 to become the all-time rushing leader in NCAA history.

Along with that, Rashaad Penny went over the 1,000-yard mark for this season, so we became the first team ever to have a 2,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard rusher. I had to laugh, late in the game when Juwan Washington did some impressive running himself, I heard an Aztec fan yell, “Yeah, that’s our third stringer!”

Another thing that made this game special was the large turnout of Aztec fans. Of all our bowl games I’ve been to on the road, I can’t remember seeing that many before. Adding to the good feeling was the number of Aztec for Life players who showed up. I couldn’t see or identify them all, but I know I saw guys from the ‘60s, ‘70s and more recent. Lots of old Letterman’s jackets.

I may be overlooking some other key points, but after ticking off this list I am tempted to say this one was without equal. All of which makes me shout out, “Way to go, Rocky!”  After all he is the architect of this special Aztec era.

DJ Pumphrey: NCAA all-time leading rusher (Ernie Anderson)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Aztec Defense Better Be Ready for Cougars

After a couple of rough games, our Aztecs defense regained its stalwart look in winning the MWC Championship game over Wyoming. Now they’d better strap their helmets on tight and be ready for a high-scoring, wide-open Houston Cougars team in the Las Vegas Bowl, Saturday afternoon.

The 9-3 Cougars racked up impressive victories over Oklahoma and Louisville. They beat the Sooners, who are #7 in the AP Poll, 33-23, and handled the #15 Cardinals, 38-10. Houston just missed being in the AP’s Top 25, heading the ranks of “others receiving votes” for a 26 slot.

They do pile up points – 64 their tops this season. Even when they got beat by Memphis, they scored 44 points. Defense is not really their strength, but they do have some standouts on offense. It pivots around their QB, Greg Ward Jr. He’s not very big (5-11, 185), but he’s their leader in both passing and rushing. He has completed 67.6% of his passes for 3,328 yards, with 22 TDs and 9 INTs. Ward also tops their three leading running backs, with 518 yards, a 3.0 average and 9 TDs. He’s backed by Duke Catalon, who has 510 yards for a 3.9 average and 4 TDs. Their third back is Dillon Birden, 289 yards, 4.7 average and 6 TDs.

The three leading Cougars receivers all have good size. Linell Bonner (6-0, 202) has caught 93 passes for 1,076 yards and 3 TDs. Chance Allen (6-3, 215) has 815 yards on 56 receptions, with 6 TDs. Rounding out this dangerous trio is Steven Dunbar (6-3, 210) with 669 yards on 51 passes and 5 TDs.

Meanwhile, our Aztecs have been piling up national honors, led by DJ Pumphrey and Nico Siragusa. In addition to being a Doak Walker finalist, DJ is a Walter Camp 1st Team All American, Sports Illustrated 1st Team All American, AP 2nd Team All American, USA Today 2nd Team All American, American Football Coaches Assoc. 2nd Team All American, Football Writers Assoc. of America 2nd Team All-American, Sporting News 2nd Team All American and back-to-back MW Offensive Player of the Year. Nico is a USA Today 1st Team All American, AP 3rd Team All American.

It should be a fun game to watch. Houston is favored by about 4, but I believe our rejuvenated D will put the clamps on them, and come out a winner, maybe vaulting us up to a Top 25 slot.

Best of all for our fans, it is an easy trip, so let’s put thousands into Sam Boyd Stadium to support Rocky’s troops! Kick-off is at 12:30.

Aztec All Americans: DJ Pumphrey; Nico Siragusa (photos by Ernie Anderson)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Let’s Look Objectively at the Facts

True Aztecs fans are proud that our football team won the Mountain West Conference championship for the second straight year, with that tough 27-24 win over the Wyoming Cowboys in the sub-freezing cold at Laramie last Saturday.

Next, on December 17, we will play Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl – the seventh post-season bowl appearance in a row for our Aztecs.

When it came to post-season MW honors, the Aztecs dominated again, For the second year in a row, DJ Pumphrey, a Doak Walker finalist, Damontae Kazee and Rashaad Penny all were named top performers on Offense, Defense and Special Teams. And seven Aztecs were named to the 1st team; three more to the second. Rocky, after winning Coach of the Year honors last season, was “only” second to Wyoming’s Craig Bohl.

DJ Pumphrey, Damontae Kazee, Rashaad Penny (photos by Ernie Anderson)
Sounds pretty darn good to me; yet we hear some complainers and at least one columnist (columnists are paid to voice opinion, right or wrong) make it sound like it was a disaster and time for Rocky to move on. Well, to each his own, but I am proud of what our coaches and players have been accomplishing, year after year. I will sure be in Vegas for the tough game with highly regarded Houston, who probably will be favored in the betting line. Will you be there?

More about the Cougars as we get closer to the game date.