BYU 28, SDSU 14

Posted: December 17, 2020 in Uncategorized

Thus, the strangest season mercifully ends. Amen.

Yes, we led at the half. Yes, we kept BYU below 30 points for only the third time in eleven games. Aztec fans discovered Greg Bell in the game is a tremendous advantage as opposed to Greg Bell standing on the sidelines. If Mr. Bell returns next year, our running game begins 2021 at a level of silly good.

Jordon Brookshire was 21/31/230 with both a td pass and interception. Yet, Mr. Brookshire does little to fill me with confidence. Throwing the ball more than twenty yards is a struggle. Carson Baker does not fill me with confidence for his confidence is sitting on a bench somewhere on El Cajon Blvd. Lucas Johnson, with his barking hamstring, is undependable for a long stretch. A harsh judgment, perhaps, but some athletes, no matter the sport, are simply injury prone, which leads to unanswered questions about availability and durability.

Kaegun Williams had his best game in an SDSU football uniform, grinding away for 95 yards on 16 carries (5.8 yards per carry. Impressive against a quality BYU defense). Tanner Kuljian’s first down scamper on a fake field goal attempt was another feather in the cap of Aztec special teams and coach Doug Deakin.

The two errors that ruined a winnable game were Mr. Brookshire throwing his only pick of the night at the BYU 20 in the first quarter after investing 12 plays for 58 yards followed by Mr. Williams fumbling the ball at the BYU 10 (double grimace) in the third quarter after 4 plays and 67 yards. Look skyward and sigh.

I find a bowl game highly unlikely, yet given the number of teams choosing to end their football exposure (wisely) in light of C-19 and our surprising run of health and luck through eight consecutive games, we may find ourselves as a replacement in, as J.D. Wicker said, a glorified road game. Regardless, 2020 deserves an asterisk, emoji, icon, meme and exclamation mark. I refuse the argument that our ten game bowl streak is in peril or at an end. Pandemic is an exception.

As we look to 2021, we need a confident, dependable, generally injury free quarterback. Greg Bell in the backfield makes a better group of running backs. If he does not return, I will need to be convinced that Chance Bell, Kaegun Williams and Jordan Byrd can/will provide an effective running game from beginning to end.

4-4/4-2.

Go, Aztecs.

Strange. We score 29 points without an offense.

If not for Jordan Byrd (93 yard kickoff return) and BJ Busbee (90 yard punt return), chances are, we lose to a woeful Colorado State team . . . at home. Well, if I may call Carson home.

Jordon Brookshire rushed 23 times for only 73 yards. Why did Mr. Brookshire rush 23 times? Did all the running backs fall into disfavor during the prior week of practice? Offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski was as innovative as a kid making a pb and j sandwich in a five star restaurant. Crust or no crust? Continuing with the Aztec rushing game, 48 runs yielded a whopping 117 yards. That is less than 2.5 yards per carry. Total offense was a pathetic 247 yards. How many teams win by 12 when generating 247 yards of offense? Only the lucky. Returning to Mr. Brookshire, he was a serviceable 14/24 with 1 touchdown, but to little effect downfield. He remains out of sync with his receivers. By the way, congrats to Dominic Benson (2/22) and Nolan Givan (1/14) for their first Aztec catches. Watching Daniel Bellinger’s (5/53) involvement in the passing game was long overdue. All of this offense scored 1 touchdown. Boo.

Of course, the Aztec special teams were tremendous. Given the above scores by Mr. Byrd and Mr. Busbee, the kickoff return team averaged 43 yards per return while the punt return efforts finished with an average of almost 39 yards per return. Yet, all that above average to great starting points eluded our offense and ended in three Matt Araiza field goals of 40, 21 and 38 yards.

As usual, less the second quarter, the Aztec defense was spectacular. Both Darren Hall and Tayler Hawkins picked off passes in the fourth quarter to hush any prolonged CSU drive. 11 tackles for loss registered 38 yards including 2 sacks. Defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix continues to impress.

4-3/4-2. Go, Aztecs.

Colorado 20, SDSU 10

Posted: December 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

Let us begin with the week that led to our trip to Boulder. Fresno State cancels during the prior weekend. J.D. Wicker has a partial agreement with the University of Washington that is canned on Tuesday by the PAC-12 when the Huskies are directed to play an available PAC-12 team. In less than two full days, J.D. speaks with the University of New Mexico, then Tulsa and settles on Colorado. “Settles” has all the stability of riding in a car with no struts, brakes, seat belts or windshield. How could this end badly? We’re fine.

As for the game, we were flat. Neither side of the ball held much interest initially. However, the defense quickly awoke. Darren Hall’s interception leading to halftime was sorely needed. By game’s end, the Aztec defense allowed the Buffalo offense 134 yards rushing and 138 yards passing for a total of 272 yards (3.3 per play). Consider the stingy 7/19 on third downs as well. A winnable offering . . . if you have an offense that can score more than 20 points. We did not.

The Colorado defense was far superior to the Aztec offense. We resembled a juco team. Yep, the Aztec offense was inept. Carson Baker needs counseling. Jordan Brookshire has a passion for throwing his passes at his receivers’ ankles. Carson and Jordan were a collective mess of 11/28 with 1 interception. 11/28 is a completion rate of 39%. Our running game featuring the trio of Kaegun Williams, Jordan Byrd and Chance Bell did next to nothing and were a collective fizzle. Our offensive line was pushed and shoved the entire game by the Buffaloes. The Aztec offense finished with 155 total yards. Yuk. We were 4/17 on third down. Double yuk. The offense failed to score points in all four quarters less Matt Araiza’s lone make. Thank goodness, Tanner Kuljian had a great night punting the football (8 for an average of 44.9 yards per). If not, 20-10 gets worse.

Speak not of the injured Lucas Johnson, Greg Bell and William Dunkle. Make no excuse. We played truly bad offensive football.

3-3. Go, Aztecs.

Such a promising start. Two first downs during our first possession. Then, the old backward, not quite forward, pass does us in, but the Aztec defense kept the Wolfpack out of the end zone and they settled for a field goal. Our next possession featured a march downfield and a Lucas Johnson run for a touchdown. Not bad.

The remainder of the first half was Aztec touchdowns followed by Nevada field goals less their lone touchdown. 21-16 us at the half was feeling quite winnable.

Until our offensive line decided blocking was optional. You want proof? Here is the proof: 5 (!!!!!) consecutive three and outs during our first five possessions in the second half. Punt city. Zero push from our offensive line into and beyond the Nevada defensive line. Not a single Nevada linebacker required laundry service at game’s end. No stains here.

Among other second half shortcomings, consider (1) Lucas Johnson’s fall down sack (nobody touched him) early in the fourth quarter; (2) Carson Baker’s return, which resulted in the fifth consecutive 3-0. Mr. Baker’s body language featured all the energy of a snail on a cold day; (3) Nevada’s four down, first and goal that resulted in the go-ahead score (and final score) courtesy of a missing Aztec defense (who, by the way, allowed the Wolfpack a lovely line of 5/5 in the red zone and 4 whole yards in tackles for loss).

Hope reared its ugly head with Darren Hall’s interception (as a side note, Mr. Hall simply could not keep up with Romeo Doubs the entire afternoon). The Aztec offense lined up on the Nevada 26 with a minute plus remaining. Nine plays later, the game ended. Nine plays to find 26 yards plus one more. Nope. Not happening.

Final damning evidence of an offense flawed and missing: Both Bells (Greg and Chance) averaged less than 4 yards per carry. Jordan Byrd averaged 1 yard per carry. We were 2/11 on third downs. A performance worthy of a pair of crutches.

3-2. Go, Aztecs.

SDSU 34, Hawaii 10

Posted: November 15, 2020 in Uncategorized

Return to Aztec normal.

The TV broadcast was not available. I happily returned to the voice embrace of Ted Leitner. Dear Uncle Teddy. Any football broadcaster who uses the phrase, “What the bleep is going on?” deserves praise. Sure, I missed watching the spectacle of whomping Hawaii, but the listening pleasure is salve enough.

The first touchdown was a two play beauty featuring Jordan Byrd (61 yards/8.7 per rush) sprinting to the end zone. The second score, courtesy of Greg Bell (175 yards/8.4 per rush), took one play. Defensively, Kurt Mattix was firing one blitz after another resulting in a fumble (recovered by Hawaii) and impossible field advantage with a sack for -9 yards with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter. Good times.

Thus the tone was set. Run, run, run, run coupled with jaw smashing defense. Segun Olubi’s interception returned for a score, and a 28-0 lead, reminds us that the scoring burden does not rest solely with the Aztec offense. Thank goodness, because Carson Baker was awful. 4/13/30? Yep. Disappointing, but true. Do recall with a 28-3 lead in the fourth quarter, we had a first and goal courtesy of a Hawaii fumble at their 10 yard line. Brady and Jeff decided to run once, run twice, run a third time before trotting out Matt Araiza to kick the field goal. Not a single pass. I believe Mr. Baker needs to rebuilt as quickly as possible. Yes, Lucas Johnson (51 yards rushing/11.8 per rush) provided direction the last 12 minutes of the game, but he did not attempt a single pass. ’tis not a recipe for a healthy offense. Quick! Name the sole wide receiver/tight end with a catch. Elijah Kothe. Further proof of required repair.

Returning to Mr. Mattix’s defense, please digest the following: Hawaii averaged 1.9 yards per rush, 6 yards per reception, less than 4 yards per play, 3/17 on third down and 8 punts. Almost forgot the 7 sacks for a total loss of 64 yards. You are welcome, Aztec offense.

3-1. Go, Aztecs.

Spartans 28, Aztecs 17

Posted: November 10, 2020 in Uncategorized

Guess what happens when the o-line finds blocking to be optional? We lose. Sure, Caden McDonald knocked out the Spartan starting quarterback the fifth play of the game. I welcomed his replacement, Nick Nash (cool name), with full knowledge that the Aztec defense would torment him deep into the Carson night. Wrong. He did the tormenting. Who knew that a #2 qb finishing with a line of 16/25/169 would be the second coming of offensive glory. 169 yards in the air was all it took to keep our defense on the field and San Jose State in the end zone. Which team is supposed to lose: The on that gains a total of 298 yards (them) or the one with 392 total yards (us)? We were feeling generous.

Returning to our offensive line, one rushing attempt after another yielded little to nothing. Greg Bell finding, stumbling, falling forward for 111 yards was pure torture. Chance Bell fared worse averaging 2.6 yards per carry. Carson Baker was sacked not once, not twice, but three times. Further proof a lost job description courtesy of our o-line. Candidly, scoring 17 points was an achievement.

Jordan Byrd needs to retire as our punt returner. Please.

Tanner Kuljian was one of the few bright spots with 4 punts for an average of 45.8 yards. Jesse Matthew (6/139) and Daniel Bellinger (4/49) also deserve kudos.

2-1. Go, Aztecs.

An old fashioned butt kicking.

10-7 at the half was cause for hand wringing and cursing (plenty). Matt Araiza missed consecutive field goals! What the hell? Okay, the first miss was partially blocked, but c’mon, Superman never fails. Mr. Araiza proves to be human. How dare he. Regardless of Mr. Araiza’s misses, we were first half incompetent when attempting to deliver the football to the end zone.

Behold! The second half begins and the Aztec offense arrives with a blistering performance. 28 points are added to the score board. Greg Bell (161 yards, 7.1 per carry), Chance Bell (98, 9.8) and Jordan Byrd (1 carry for a 78 yard sprint touchdown. My, that will inflate the old yards per carry) enjoyed the hard work of the Aztec offensive line. Carson Baker improved on his UNLV performance with a line of 18/27/163 with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Kobe Smith (seemingly a good half foot taller than the Utah State cornerback assigned to stop him) had 6 receptions to lead the other seven who had at least 1 catch. Game’s end featured 570 yards of offense! Of course 71% of those yards were courtesy of the run. Dare I say, the offense has returned.

Utah State did little to nothing all night. Zeroes were notched for the first, third and fourth quarters. The Aggies registered small numbers in passing (112 yards) and rushing (103 yards). They were 3 and done on 6 separate occasions. Their punter was busy (7 punts) and weary. During the first and third quarters, USU did not move the ball to the 50 yard line meaning the Aztec defense was top notch consecutive games. Kurt Mattix calls an excellent game from the booth. May he be Rocky Long II.

As a side note, congrats to Tanner Kuljian on his first punt as an Aztec. 58 yards in the thin air of Logan, Utah. Lucas Johnson also stepped on the field for the first time during the last drive for the obligatory hand-off parade to end the game.

2-0. Go, Aztecs.

Not bad, not great. I can’t complain. We played football.

As usual during a C-CBS broadcast, the game in front of us (Wyoming/Nevada) goes into overtime. Knowing our history of joining-the-game-in-progress, I had my mac tuned to 1360. I found the voice of one Ted Leitner to be the equivalent of a photo perfect day at the beach. How I adore Ted. Man crush? Yes. I don’t care. Mock me. Uncle Teddy’s voice coupled with early Aztec success readied me for the eventual C-CBS broadcast featuring a 7-0 lead.

I found Carson Baker’s performance to be a collective “meh”. 12/25 with 1 touchdown and no interceptions was serviceable. I was surprised by his ability to scramble with intent, i.e., no lost yards and the ability to wing the ball to an open receiver for positive yards. The o-line did well allowing only 1 sack while providing plenty of push. The proof of said push was 287 yards rushing. The following yards per carry will dismiss any naysayers regarding an effective run game: Greg Bell (5.8), Kaegun Williams (8.4), Jordan Byred (13.3) and Chance Bell (5.7). Push, indeed. As for receiving, 6 guys caught 1 pass each. 3 guys caught 2 passes each. Thus, the “meh”. Of course, Matt Araiza was perfect for the night (2/2). However, regressing from 27 first half points to 7 second half points was unimpressive and borderline criminal given the inept UNLV defense. Shame, shame, shame.

The Aztec defense was camped in the Rebel backfield three of four quarters (Mr. Mattix needs to emphasize that FOUR quarters of effort are required). Mr. Mattix mixed well one and two linebackers to the front three the entire evening. The three Rebel qbs were frantic most of the evening. They averaged less than 4 yards per completion. The UNLV rushing efforts was held to 2.3 yards per rush. Their offense averaged less than 3 yards per play. 1/15 on third downs was most satisfying. The SDSU defense allowed the UNLV offense to visit the red zone a mere 3 times. Trenton Thompson, Jonah Tavai and Kahi Neves were especially impressive.

Next week is Utah State at Logan. If we play four quarters of focused football, we win.

1-0.

Go, Aztecs.

Hello.

The MWC is proceeding with football. Eight games worth. Or there about depending on the school and non-con games secured. Yes, I find doubtful the chance to play eight games without cancellation of at least one, if not two, as we enter flu season coupled with our pandemic. Yet, I must pontificate (I’m an Aztec football junkie) on the SDSU schedule.

UNLV at home (home is Carson this year and 2021) is a win, but by no means a gimme. The new Rebel coach, Marcus Arroyo, is a former U of Ducks offensive co-coordinator. UNLV will stretch the field. Our defensive back five will be busy defending the pass and I expect many a deflection, tip and interception to the detriment of UNLV.

Utah State at Logan on Halloween. A sign? No, just another disappointing future memory for the majority of trick or treaters denied candy by weather and virus. A difficult road game, but the Aztec offense proves too much for the Aggies.

San Jose State football moved to Humboldt State for practice purposes. Practicing 300+ miles from home is chock-full of start, stop, start, stop depending on what is provided, forgotten and misplaced. The last development the improving Spartans need is a disjointed effort to prepare for the season. The Aztecs overwhelm San Jose State in a painful to watch romp (painful for the good people of San Jose).

Hawaii follows the Spartans. The same result. As mentioned in my summer post, Todd Graham is not the right guy for the job in paradise. The Hawaii defense is torched in Carson.

The Wolf Pack at Reno goes to the final possession. Reno in late November features some sort of challenging weather. Take your combination of wind, rain, snow, freezing temparture and/or hail. While watching the game on the tube/phone, wear a jacket and hat. Pretend empathy.

Fresno State at Fresno without 40,000 screaming, beer fueled fans will be an advantage to SDSU. Game six for both teams will shine the glare on a Bulldog squad lurching, struggling and waiting for 2021. The Aztec defense pummels the Fresno State offense.

Colorado State . . . oh, the missteps leading to the season. First, as I stated in my MWC preview, hiring Steve Addazio was a dumbass decision. Second, the “investigation” conducted by the university into various claims of racism and violations of established state/county C-19 health codes launches the Rams into a murky, disappointing, um, shit show, no, no, dumpster fire of a season. The only trip and slip variable for the Aztecs is December 5th in Fort Collins. As Reno (and so many other MWC locations), the weather will play havoc on sensible play calling, but the Aztecs prevail.

Finally, Provo. Why? Yeah, I know finding available teams in 2020 is north of difficult, but why these guys? Why not any other team west of the Rockies? Yeah, yeah, bowl game eligibility consideration of schedule, blah, blah, blah. I should not blah reality, but I remain flummoxed by J.D. Wicker’s decision. Regardless, we beat these guys and the refs.

Best case: 7-1. Worst case: 5-3.

Go, Aztecs.

SDSU Football, 2020: Update

Posted: September 20, 2020 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

We have movement. North. A joke. C’mon.

Several items to address. First, the demolition of the Murph/Q/SDCCU stadium sooner rather than later is a benefit given the late start to the entire SDSU Mission Valley project. April, 2020 was the original escrow closing date. The reality of San Diego real estate development pushed that date to early August, 2020. Precious time was lost. Removing thousands of tons of concrete demands no delay. Yet, here we stand. Working around the circular monster of the stadium would have created a difficult work space for all contractors involved. Removing said beast creates a literal and physical open area for bulldozers, backhoes, trucks, cranes and the rest to move in a direct line rather than the “oops, pardon me, excuse me” routine of running north and south of the stadium.

The choice of Carson and Dignity Health Sports Park was the nearest suitable facility available. Let me quickly disperse the idiots who claim this choice to be anything but logical. The Aztecs are not the Chargers. Drop that analogy/comparison. ’tis nonsense. Cal State campuses do not move. Cal State universities are California tax funded (somewhat) entities rooted in legislative law. Comparing SDSU with an NFL franchise indicates that the moron making the argument may as well compare a mom and pop taco stand with Taco Bell. Continuing withe idea that remaining somewhere, or anywhere, in San Diego offers a better outcome than 100 miles north. Where? Name the juco football stadium that matches the physical display of a professional soccer and part-time football stadium? You mention the USD football stadium? USD offers a competing football calendar. Plus, I do not recall any kind offer made. Consider the reality that during this time of C-19, butts in the seats are a non-starter. If you do not believe me, turn on the tube and watch MLB, NBA, NHL or NFL. Hmm. Cardboard cutouts. Large stuffed animals. The occasional human. Yep, that’s the crowd. Assume SDCCU stands. Who sits in the upper deck? A toughie. Um, nobody. The remaining two decks seat and separate those willing to attend Aztec home games. We averaged 29,000 +/- attendance in 2019. Cut that by half or more. At best. Spread 14,500 people in the cave. C-CBS and ESPN will not be impressed. Do note that 14,500 fans is a best case, thus unlikely, result. Dignity Health Care Park has a maximum occupancy of 27,000, which offers plenty of room for the Aztec faithful allowed and/or willing to attend a football game during a pandemic. The curious and bored of greater Los Angeles can drop by, watch the game and enjoy a scoreboard worthy of a division one football team rather than a scoreboard that offers home/visitor and time remaining with a few burned out light bulbs. Moths not included.

Money. Yes, SDSU saves a bundle. Do compare the cost of busing north 100 miles a maximum of five trips (ten if we play consecutive seasons) with an annual minimum bill of $5 million dollars (the city of San Diego averaged a million a month) for the upkeep of SDCCU. Who wants the chance of crumbling concrete to fall during a game (or at anytime)? The escalator malfunctions during a game. Can you hear the bitching and moaning from the same crowd bitching and moaning about the move to Carson? The lights blew out a few years ago during game time. Embarrassing. You want to roll the dice on a crumbling interior infrastructure, again? Moving to Carson for one year avoids all the aforementioned.

Speaking of one year, the bleaters need to let that calendar rest for a moment. Maybe an hour. Some people are slow. What exactly do Aztec fans miss? Refer to the seating scenario above. How many Aztec fans scoot home at halftime. A great many. Given the pandemic, I dare to count the number of Aztec fans who will not board the trolley to travel to the stadium. If two “seasons” of football are played inside twelve months at a non-San Diego location, what weight does that carry? The fact that we can possibly play football is enough satisfaction. Until the new stadium is complete, anywhere makes a fine short-term rental (without the 24/7 party).

Do remember, the new stadium (speaking in strictly football terms) is the goal. Placing any obstacle in the way of constructing the stadium and all associated with said construction is puzzling at best and obviously halfwitted. Getting the hell out of the way is the best choice. The end result is a stadium that media and fans will rave about. Best stadium on the West Coast. Best stadium you will not find in the PAC-12. SDSU will be the shining site star of college football. Imagine the development in sudden consideration of San Diego county and southern California kids who would otherwise refuse the Aztec coaching staff. Long term is the best outlook.

Finally, during the Brady Hoke media meet, I heard somebody by the name of Mark ask Mr. Hoke about the players becoming “political pawns” in the decision not to play football as scheduled. I’m guessing Mark is Mark Zeigler of the Tribune. Mr. Zeigler needs to keep his politics out of SDSU football. Coloring a health and financial decision as a politically based demon is the thought of an oaf with too much time on his hands who views conspiracy websites with increasing frequency. Do shut up, Mr. Zeigler.

As always, go Aztecs.