Monday, October 24, 2016

Aztec Defense Continues to Shut Door

Three games into the Mountain West Conference schedule, our Aztec defense has yet to give up even one TD. Two FGs, that’s it. In the 42-3 rout of San Jose State, the offense joined in the fun. Piling up 460 yards of total offense – most of it in the first three quarters. Not surprisingly, DJ Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny each ran for more than 100 yards.

Now the Aztecs head to Logan, Utah, for an important MW game with Utah State, Friday night. The Aggies are coming off a 34-20 win over Fresno State - a Bulldog loss that got their coach Tim DeRuyter fired on Sunday. The Aggies are just 3-4, but have played well in losing to some of the better teams in the MW; Air Force (27-20), Boise State (21-10) and Colorado State (31-29).

Their offense is led by Junior QB Kent Myers, who has thrown for 1,485 yards with a 59% completion average. Three RBs share the load with Tonny Lindsey leading them with 442 yards in 7 games. Four WRs have almost equal numbers of receptions and yards.

The betting lines have the Aztecs favored by about 6 points. This game has an early start time (5 pm PT) and will be televised on CBSSN.

On the history-making front, DJ expanded his lead for this season by reaching 1,246 yards, and he continues to climb in the all-time rushing records with 5,518 career yards. He’s within striking distance of the three ahead of him: 5,540, 5,587 (that’s Archie Griffin) and 5,589. So he could pass all of them with this one game and be ranked #6 in NCAA history.

Beyond his great skills on the field, DJ is a true class act in every way. That’s what makes all of us so proud he is an Aztec. If you did not see or hear his answer when asked about that cheap-shot targeting in the San Jose game, by a Spartan who got thrown out, DJ said, “That was a great hit on his part; that’s football. I would love for him to be in the game still. It was just a big hit, that’s all. That’s why we wear helmets.”

Oh, yes, DJ quickly proved there is more than skill and class to him – he is amazingly tough. On the very next play, when obviously he should have been hurting and shaken up, DJ smoothly swept left for a 27-yard TD.

The Aztec Defense had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss; DJ Pumphrey gained 135 rushing yards and scored 2 TDs (photos by Ken Ables)


Monday, October 17, 2016

An “ugly” win? Hey, a WIN is a WIN!

Whenever I hear that term used, I bristle. Even if it isn’t Rembrandt, a win is what’s important, whether it’s with a lower case w or a capital W. And the Aztecs’ win over Fresno had lots of very positive notes.

Start with defense. In two MW games, the defense has given up just one FG, no TDs. Not big winners, but coming into our game these two opponents had scored well. UNLV had averaged 36.0 points a game, and a week later they scored 41 to beat Hawaii on the road! Fresno had averaged 24.7 points. And the Aztec pass defense, after some questions, continues to get better and better, with 3 INTs at Fresno. The Aztecs dominated the clock, letting Fresno have the ball for only 22:41, while controlling it for 37:19. At the half, the Bulldogs had a total of only 74 yards.

The offense, not surprisingly, featured DJ Pumphrey. He ran for 220 yards and scored both of the Aztecs’ TDs. His total yards in six games is 1,111, with at least 6 games to go. With his Fresno yards he moved up to #10 all-time among NCAA running backs, or 8th if you believe other stories that go by old NCAA record rules. In this game he moved past, among others, Herschel Walker, and is just 4 yards short of LaDainian Tomlinson, a name well known here. Our young QB Christian Chapman continues to be a steady leader, with no INTs, and only two in six games, in addition to none in his first games last year. In a limited passing night he completed 7 of 12 and ran the ball 6 times for 26 yards and had only one sack.

I still like this rivalry a lot, and was pleased that we could carry the Old Oil Can back to San Diego where it belongs. There are so many things not to like about Fresno. Like the year at old Ratcliffe Stadium where thieves broke in to our locker room and stole players’ personal possessions. Or, the recent year someone threw a folding chair at me. Guess I should tone down my sideline enthusiasm! And Saturday, Ken and I were challenged by the same security guy who tried two years ago to throw us off the sideline despite our bench passes. Fortunately, there was a friendly deputy sheriff who calmed the belligerent guy down in our behalf. Oh, well, as long as we WIN… or should that be simply win?  Interesting, the crowd was announced as 24,731. Frankly, we guessed there were no more than 10 or 12 thousand in their 41,000-seat stadium, and maybe 2,000 at game’s end.

Now, this week, another Friday night game, but at home and with a full week to prep. San Jose State is only 2-5, but last Saturday they upset a favored Nevada team in Spartan Stadium. Let’s be there to help the Aztecs hold them down to a minimum and chalk up another important MW victory!

DJ Pumphrey and the Aztecs brought the Old Oil Can back to San Diego; Kameron Kelly’s INT late in the game sealed the Aztec win (Photos by Ernie Anderson)


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Watch Out for the Bulldogs, Our Oldest Rival

This week the Aztecs head North for a Friday night game against our oldest rival, the Fresno State Bulldogs. This series dates back to 1923 and, no, I did not see that game! Talk about a balanced match-up through the years. Right now, we lead with a 28-23-4 total. But the points scored are amazing. Aztecs, 1,154; Fresno, 1,157. Just 3 points difference in 55 games.

I think I look forward to this game more than any other each year, and it was made even better a few years ago with introduction of the Old Oil Can, a game trophy that’s not very old but has genuine historic meaning.

This year the Bulldogs appear to be down, but better watch out. The last time we beat them at their place was 1997 and just 20-19. So far this season, they are only 1-5, and have given up more than 40 points a game in those losses. Their QB Chason Virgil has mediocre stats – less than 50% completions. Their top running back is Dalen Jones with 468 yards in 6 games. So it might be easy to assume a win, But with this rivalry, do not relax.

Their coaching situation is interesting. From the time Jim Sweeney took over in 1976, through the Pat Hill era, ending in 2011, they were winners – 256-155. And when Tim DeRuyter took over, it seemed to soar to an even higher level, then suddenly dropped off. He’s now considered on a hot seat but has a multi-year contract.

Current betting line: Aztecs by 17. But remember, you have to play the game! We were favored by what, 20 points at South Alabama.

Last Saturday’s win over UNLV was reminiscent of so many good games last year. Started right out establishing ourselves on both sides of the ball. Took the opening kick-off and had a perfect TD drive for a 7-0 lead. Then, on the Rebels’ first play, Derek Babiash intercepted the pass.

Let’s see if Aztecs can duplicate that fast start Friday night!

The Aztecs looking to keep the Old Oil Can they won in 2015 (Ernie Anderson); Derek Babiash intercepted UNLV’s first pass of the game (USA Today)