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)


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)


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Maybe a Bye Was Not Good; Now MW Starts

Last week I said the early bye looked like a good thing for our Aztecs this year. You will understand if I change my mind now with the benefit of hindsight. I won’t try to name them all, but virtually anything that can go wrong did go wrong. And mostly at times that affected the game. A two-way painful injury that led to turnovers and TDs. Fumbles, sacks, long TD passes by the enemy. You name it, I happened that night.

This can still be a really special season. An 11-1 regular season is very much in reach, and that would be a new record for Aztec wins in a season. The ’66 and ‘69 teams were 10-0 in the regular season, then had bowl wins. And if we win the MW championship game and a bowl game, it would be 13-1. That’s the goal. And, even against the odds and history, we still could have a shot at a New Year’s Day game.

Right now, the important goal is the Mountain West Conference title – we are 0-0 – starting Saturday with a home game against UNLV. As everyone seems to agree, the Rebels still not in the top deck of the MW, but they are vastly improved, and they have upset the Aztecs with weaker teams before, so we’d better be ready for this one.

I am confident that the Aztecs, from coaching staff through the whole roster, are going to be fired-up and ready for this one. 14-point favorites. My concern, knowing San Diego sports fans, is that many will bemoan one loss, spoiled after 13 straight wins, will decide they won’t go, This team needs and deserves everybody’s support. As Malik Smith said, “We lost, we did not die.”

DJ Pumphrey gained 151 yards and became the 21st player in NCAA history to rush for more than 5,000 yards; Eric Judge had 3 catches for 43 yards (Photos by Ernie Anderson)
Without boring you with a lot of details, let me briefly tell you how wonderful this last weekend was for me, except for the painful loss! First, on the plane, Rocky let me address the team. Saturday morning I was aboard my old battleship, the USS Alabama, and went all way down those ladders to my engine room. Then, at the game, they told my combination story of USS Alabama veteran and Aztec fan, and played it big on the video board. I was pleased at the crowd’s warm reception.

Addressing the team before takeoff (Ernie Anderson); in the engine room of the USS Alabama (Ernie Anderson); a warm reception from Jaguar fans (Ken Ables)