Posts Tagged ‘Damontae Kazee’


A barn burner.  Hanging on for dear life.  Fingers slipping from the edge.

You get the idea.

Among many mind blowing (as far as football is concerned) numbers, please consider the following:

4 plus hours of football (what is this?  A Red Sox/Evil Empire game?).

Cal ran 94 offensive plays.

SDSU had 70 offensive plays (for a game total of 164).

Their qb threw 72 passes (he completed 41).

15 kickoffs.

SDSU limited Cal to less than six minutes of ball time in the second and fourth quarters.

SDSU was flagged 14 times for 105 yards.

Once we took the lead at 28-21, we held the lead; 31-21, 38-21, 38-28, 38-34, 45-34, 45-40.

42,473 butts in the seats without the promise of post-game fireworks (the game was the fireworks show).

A tip of the hat to Donnel Pumphrey for the inevitable run past Marshall Faulk.  The fact Donnel teared up on the sideline is testament to a young man noting his place in NCAA history.

While Christian Chapman struggled, he limited bad decisions to a botched snap and one interception.  14/23 for 129 yards (while averaging just shy of ten yards per completion) was enough production in light of pound and ground for 334 yards (281 of those yards belonging to Mr. Pumphrey).  The offensive line, tight ends and fullback were exceptional.

The defense made plays when all seemed lost.  How do we win when we give up 604 yards of Cal offense?  How do we win when we give up 522 passing yards?  By making three interceptions and returning one for a touchdown.  That’s how.  The old “bend, but do not break” applied.  Trite?  Perhaps.  But, applicable.  Damontae Kazee’s acrobatic pick with seconds remaining sealed the win.  A wild end to a wild ride.

At last, we beat a Rigged 5 team.  A signature win?  I say no.  But, a quality win nonetheless.



Accolades make me nervous.  Too much praise this preseason from too many sources.  Does that offer balance?  I don’t know.  All I know is Aztec football history.  Sure, the last six years have been incredible, but I suffer the memory of the Luginbill/Tollner/Craft/Long (Chuck, not Rocky) years.  Thus, I want to embrace the preseason hype, but all I can do is nod and smile.

Defense (because everybody wants to read about the offense first).

The Line:  Two leave, thus two must be replaced.  Kyle Kelley wins the battle for the honor of pairing with the returning Alex Barrett at defensive end.  Sergio Phillips seems to be the starting nose guard if, a big if, Rocky decides not to pull Sergio and return him to the offensive line (more on the other line later).  Noble Hall is a worthy nose guard if Sergio returns to the other side of the ball.  Grade B.

Linebackers:  Calvin Munson returns for his final year.  A superior talent.  Randy Ricks and Austin Wyatt-Thayer complete a talented trio with Ronley Lakalaka and Ryan Dunn as the primary back-ups.  Grade A.

Back Five:  Remember, this is Rocky Long’s defense, not the standard offering.  The strength of the defense lies with these five.  Four starters return.  Malik Smith, Na’im McGee, Kameron Kelly and Damontae Kazee.  Billy Vaughn or Derek Babiash will complete the back five.  This group will set an Aztec record for most interceptions by a defensive backfield during 2016.  A talented second squad is ready with Parker Baldwin, Trey Lomax and Kalan Montgomery (these three would start for other MWC teams).  Opposing quarterbacks with little to no experience will not sleep prior to playing SDSU.  Chaos, fright, visions of sharp teeth and outright panic will overwhelm many a quarterback (and offensive coordinator) attempting to prepare and execute a game plan against the Aztec defense.  Grade A.

Punting (technically, a defensive skill.  I promise):  Tanner Blain was steady in foot application in 2015.  I expect the same foot in 2016.  Grade A.

Offense (at last).

Quarterback:  Christian Chapman guiding the 2015 team to wins against Nevada, Air Force and Cincinnati is proof of not only talent, but the ability and willingness to follow the script of offensive coordinator Jeff Horton.  Christian must improve upon his ability to throw downfield 40+ yards a half-dozen attempts as each game progresses.  Stretching the field makes for many a miss on behalf of Aztec running backs.  Christian can run as well.  Jimmy Walker and Ryan Agnew battle for appearances during wipe outs.  Even though Mr. Agnew won the back-up spot post-fall camp, I prefer Mr. Walker given his considerable junior college experience.  Nothing personal, Mr. Agnew.  Grade B.

Running Backs:  Donnel Pumphrey will politely run past Marshall Faulk at the end of the Cal game or no later than the Northern Illinois game.  His final total rushing yardage as an Aztec begins with a question mark.  Who knows?  However, I must admit concern with Donnel’s past brush with high ankle sprains.  No, I’m not a doctor, but his past must be acknowledged.  Rashaad Penny will receive one rushing opportunity for every two of Donnel’s.  He will impress.  I would not be surprised to witness Rashaad rush for 1,000 yards this year (shades of Chase Price).  Juwan Washington is receiving a lot of under the radar praise as the third back and kick return partner of Rashaad’s.  We shall see.  Grade A.

Fullback:  Nick Bawden (thank God he no longer throws a football) or Dakota Turner, your choice.  Candidly, I would rather Mr. Turner return to the defensive side of the ball.  I’m going with Nick since he’s played on the offensive side his entire time as an Aztec.  May he block well, not fumble and catch the occasional seven to ten yard pass for a first down.  Grade C.

Wide Receiver:  Sure, Coach Hunkie Cooper’s first year was 2015, but this group underperformed.  Yes, they can block downfield, but catching downfield is the goal, thus the position title, wide receiver, not wide blocker.  Mikah Holder will get the attention of opposing defensive backfields, thus some combination of Chase Favreau, Curtis Anderson, Eric Judge and Christian Cumberland must offer Christian Chapman open receivers who can catch a football in flight.  Grade C.

Tight End:  If Daniel Brunskill switches to right tackle, David Wells becomes the starting tight end.  David is 6′ 5″ and easy to find.  Kahale Warring (6′ 6″) or Darryl Richardson (6′ 5″) will pair with Mr. Wells during double tight end sets.  However, if Mr. Brunskill remains a tight end, he and Mr. Wells form a potent one-two combination for Christian Chapman.  Grade A with Mr. Brunskill, grade B without him.

Offensive Line:  Panic ignited when Joe Salcedo was injured.  Joe’s injury, while unfortunate, leads to opportunity for Nick Gerhard or David Servatius (switch to the right, David) to back up Daniel Brunskill . . . who was the reported (Rocky stated he was switching Mr. Brunskill to right tackle) fall camp favorite to start at right tackle!  I do not understand the hand wringing and hair pulling!  Calm down, my fellow Aztecs.  The left side is solid with Nico Siragusa at guard and Kwayde Miller at tackle.  Arthur Flores starts at center.  Antonio Rosales will partner with either Daniel Brunskill or a well-groomed replacement on the right side via the efforts of Line Coach Mike Schmidt.  I admit the second tier guys have little experience, but injury is why we recruit well and practice with intent to start.  Grade B.

Kicking Game:  John Baron has substantial leg.  Now he has the opportunity to show said leg during games.  I expect success on a 100% basis after touchdowns and a 75% basis (c’mon, he is a sophomore starting for the first time) from three land (inside the twenty-five, he must be perfect).  Grade C (until Mr. Baron proves his talent).

Return Game:  Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington return kickoffs (may there be few).  Mikah Holder and Damontae Kazee return punts (may there be many).  Coach Bobby  Hauck teaches the special team game to perfection.  Please continue.  Grade A.

Long Snapper (I forget nothing):  Ryan Simmons attempts to fill the substantial shoes of Jeff Overbaugh.  Good luck.  Grade C (see Kicking Game).

The 2016 Schedule.

Game 1, New Hampshire.  Hopefully, 45,000 plus butts in the seats (a Vin Scully line), thanks to the KGB fireworks show.  Yes, we have a horrible history of non-con first games.  I assume nothing other than Aztec starters sitting during the entire fourth quarter.

Game 2, Cal.  How I will grow weary of the week long chant of, deep breath, we-haven’t-beat-a-PAC-12-team-since-the-beginning-of-time crap that will dominate all media.  Hopefully, we beat the Bears at the Q.  This game may actually attract 40,000 fans without the benefit of fireworks.  Candidly, our defense wins or loses this game less the ill timed fumble or interception from our offense.

Game 3, Northern Illinois.  Our first road game.  The Huskies cannot pass which is unfortunate given our Back Five.  We will jam the first seven yards more often than not.  But, think Air Force and do not lose sight of a wandering Northern Illinois receiver twenty yards downfield.

Game 4, South Alabama (after an open weekend).  This game is of concern.  The Jaguars beat us in overtime at the Q last year (in my presence.  Sin).  Our second road game.  Thankfully this game is October first with cooler temperatures and a whole lot less dehydration.  South Alabama recruits kids who are a step below SEC talent, thus fast and quick is the tempo.  Much like Cal, our defense gets the win or the upset loss.

Game 5, UNLV.  A tip of the cap to Coach Tony Sanchez.  I thought his hire would be a disaster given his ascent from high school football to division one football, but no.  He did well in 2015 with little to use.  However, we win our first MW home game.  The Rebels’ defense is horrible.  Look for a minimum of 450+ yards of total offense on behalf of the Aztecs.

Game 6, Fresno State:  At Fresno is never easy.  The Bulldog faithful arrive in great numbers, inebriated and loud.  This year will feature an Aztec pummeling of the Bulldogs. Fresno State fans will flock to the exit during the third quarter.

Game 7, San Jose State:  We return to the Q for our first MWC test.  The Spartans are improving.  A fine coaching staff is turning SJSU into SDSU a-la the Hoke years.  They also return the talented quarterback, Kenny Potter.  This will be a fourth quarter game.  Our advantage is found at the Q.

Game 8, Utah State:  Late October in Logan, Utah.  Will leaves fall or snow fall?  The Aggies defense is a significant step below last year’s squad.  We should (dangerous word) dominate Utah State on both sides of the ball.

Game 9, Hawaii:  Back at the Q.  The year Hawaii is not a road game is a relief given distance and time change.  Not that the multi-colored arc in the sky has any chance of beating us.  Second and third tier Aztecs get a lot of playing time in this game.

Game 10, Nevada:  If we contain the Nevada quarterback Tyler Stewart, we win.  If Mr. Stewart has the proverbial hot hand, this game will be a nail biter.  However, similar to Utah State, the more time the Wolfpack defense spends on the field, the better.

Game 11, Wyoming:  Laramie in November.  Blizzard?  Torrential rain?  40 mph wind?  Wolves?  Or a nice day in the 50s?  Who knows?  Wyoming is an improved team with a stellar coaching staff.  Yes, we win, but not by a wide margin.

Game 12, Colorado State:  We return home.  We win and pick at least two passes from Nick Stevens.

MWC Championship Game, December 3.  We represent the West.  We probably play Boise. If we win, wow.  If we lose, we still go bowling.

Predicted Won-Lost:  I will entertain the sometimes mentioned 12-0.  Strange things happen, so why not a perfect season?  We were perfect three years in the 1960s.  More than likely, 10-2.  Worst case is 8-4.



Oy, the first half was ugly.  Or to paraphrase Redd Foxx, so ugly, we were hit with the ugly stick.  Why was Jeff Horton running the majority of plays to the Aztec right?  One stuff after another.  We could not block on our right side the entire half.  No momentum was developed less the opening drive (which was nice).  Malik Smith loses his mind during the second quarter.  Rocky should have removed him from the game.  Mr. Smith was completely out of control.  Shame.

Speaking of shame, 13-10 at the half.

We finally arrived to play in the second half.  Maxwell Smith produced his best game as an Aztec quarterback.  11/14/180 yards.  No interceptions.  Plus, he averaged just shy of 13 yards per completion.  Not bad.  Donny Hageman nailing a 54 yard field goal was a team boost.  Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny both averaged 6 yards a carry.  Mr. Penny looked especially impressive against the CSU defense.  Dakota Gordon rumbled (all fullbacks rumble) for 52 yards on 4 carries.  The offense provided the most  balanced performance of the season.

The Aztec defense started poorly, but ended well.  Three picks.  Damontae Kazee returning his interception for a touchdown was a spear to the Rams offensive heart.  The back seven allowed the Rams a paltry 7.3 yards per completion.  A solid second half effort.  During the first half, I’m wondering “who are these guys?”  Thankfully, they disappeared.

Next week is our off week.  Soak the bumps and bruises.  Enjoy next Saturday.  Grab some sand.  Three MWC games remain.  5-0 in conference play is stellar.  Wyoming rolls into the Q Saturday, November 14.  The Cowboys feature an above average running game.  However, as long as Rocky keeps the boys focused, I’m leaning towards a 6-0 Mountain West result.

Dominating.  Absolutely dominating.  Both sides of the ball.  Firing on all cylinders and all other similar analogies apply.  Utah State’s first three offensive possessions:  3 and out, lost fumble, 3 and out.  The tone was set.

The defense was punishing.  Kent Myers was crushed, slammed and treated badly by the Aztec defense.  After Fely’s hit in the second quarter, Mr. Myers took a while to return to form.  He was playing with, um, great hesitancy.  Mr. Myers finished 8/19/93 yards.  The SDSU defensive line was camped in the Utah State backfield.  Keeping the lid on the USU offense to the result of 14 points was testament to a job well done.  The Aggies were a mere 3/11 on third down conversions.  Na’im McGee had his best game of the year with 10 tackles.  Domantae Kazee’s first half hit that removed the USU player’s helmet was an early exclamation point.  So much to enjoy.

Donnel Pumphrey (23/181), Chase Price (21/97), Rashaad Penny (10/38) and Dakota “I Don’t Like To Be Tackled” Gordon (3/18) enjoyed great blocking on behalf of the Aztec offensive line and receiving corps to the total of 336 rushing yards.  As mentioned in the San Jose State post, the return of Darrell Greene has solidified the o-line.  He was missed.  The Aztec offense scored three of four quarters including 14 fourth quarter points.  7 of 8 red zone opportunities resulted in scores.  Solid football.

Yes, I’m giddy.  Especially contrasted against the horrible 1-3 non-con start.  4-0 and sitting in first place in the West division.  Ah, what a view.  Bowl game number 7 in a continuing series seems (never assume too much) to be close enough to touch or at least contractually say “yes”.  Colorado State on Halloween awaits.  Fort Collins’ psychotic weather enters the equation along with the altitude.  Will we be greeted by snow?  Blizzard conditions?  Fifty mile an hour winds?  A balmy afternoon in the mid-50s?  Game time in Fort Collins is always intriguing.


Having roundly criticized Maxwell Smith for better than a month, I now congratulate him on an unspectacular, yet solid effort against Hawaii.  11/15, 1 touchdown, no interceptions and 184 yards is serviceable.  However, my call for change continues.

Donnel Pumphrey was stellar especially playing with the dread high ankle sprain.  3 touchdowns cures a lot of injury.  218 total yards rushing is testament to the offensive line getting a whole lot of push.  Congrats to Curtis Anderson, III for leap frogging four teammates to receive playing time and make his first catch of the year.

The Aztec defense was superb.  4 sacks, 2.5 by defensive linemen (Jon Sanchez, Christian Hayward and Noble Hall), was a job well done.  Ending the last two Hawaii drives in the fourth quarter with interceptions (Damontae Kazee and J.J. Whitaker) took what little momentum and/or hope retained by Hawaii.  The Rainbow Warriors (we can do better in the nickname/mascot category) were held to a total of 53 rushing yards and 251 total offensive yards.  Nice job, Aztecs.

2-0 in MWC play.  Change nothing.  Except the quarterback.

First, the good since the game wasn’t all bad.  The Aztec offense had the ball for 34 plus minutes.  Granted, we did little to nothing with the ball, but we at least possessed the ball.  Tanner Blain had 4 of 9 punts land inside the 20 yard line.  Plus, Mr. Blain averaged 40.6 yards per boot.  Rashaad Penny had a rushing line of 5/34 for better than six and a half yards per carry.  So much for the good.

Now for the bad.  The flags were flying.  Each time offensive momentum seemed to build, behold, the yellow flag.  12 penalties for 136 yards stops a lot of momentum.  5 personal fouls (a couple seemed less than devious, though bad football cannot be explained away by less than average officiating) indicates an unprepared team.

During the third quarter, Cal found their running game.  Daniel Lasco and Vic Enwere (especially) ran through the San Diego State defense like a fat man cutting a steak.  Both Mr. Lasco and Mr. Enwere averaged 6.5 yards per carry.  Both these gentlemen were well acquainted with the Aztec defensive backs because those five were all that stood between Mr. Lasco and Mr. Enwere consuming more yardage.

The combined efforts of Maxwell Smith and Christian Chapman resulted in 14/32 for 173 yards with 2 interceptions (one each).  After the impressive first drive that resulted in the only SDSU score, Mr. Smith returned to his USD game demeanor:  largely ineffective.  Mr. Chapman displayed impressive mobility coupled with bad decision-making.  Aztec coaches Long, Horton and Morgan must decide between Mr. Smith’s 10/19/136 or Mr. Chapman’s 4/14/37 performance to determine the best season solution at the quarterback spot.  I’m not a fan of rotating quarterbacks, though I’m sure none of the above mentioned coaches care.  While my prior posts have shown a clear preference for Mr. Smith to be the starting quarterback, I now find myself lobbying on behalf of the more dynamic (he can run when he needs to) Mr. Chapman, youth be damned.  Candidly, when the Aztecs register a grand total of 325 offensive yards and a long pass of a pathetic 33 yards, let us lean decidedly to the future development of a redshirt freshman.

Speaking of total yards, our lauded Aztec defense was awful.  Specifically, Damontae Kazee and Malik Smith were less than stellar.  While the blitz was occasionally effective, our lack of defensive pressure allowed the Cal quarterback far too much time far too often.  Yet, I do not offer that fact as an excuse for our bad pass coverage.  Allowing 485 total yards on the road or home or anywhere is further proof of an unprepared defense.

Thus, game two.

As for next week against South Alabama, beware and be prepared.




While the Aztec offense was generally incapable of scoring in the almighty red zone for most of the evening, the Aztec defense was the definition of beauty . . . if you are a football fan.  Hawaii scrapped together a paltry 264 yards of total offense including less than 100 yards of rushing offense.  Two interceptions, one each by Damontae Kazee and Malik Smith, at key moments, removed any hope of momentum on behalf of the Rainbow.  SDSU stopping Hawaii’s late third quarter drive sealed the deal.  Hawaii had the ball a mere 2:49 in the fourth quarter.  No chance to close the gap.  Less the fluke touchdown at the end of the second quarter, Hawaii does not score a touchdown.  The final bit of proof:  Six punts on behalf of the visitors.

As for the Aztec offense, ugly, but effective enough.  Quinn Kaehler (13/24/174) played well given his shoulder consideration. No interceptions was nice.  He hit 10 different receivers for completions.  I will generally ignore the glaring number of dropped passes on behalf of the receiving corps.  71 offensive plays and 457 total yards suggest that SDSU should have put at least another 17 points on the board.  Hageman missing from 31 is proof he’s human, and remains a tremendous upgrade from last year’s field goal efforts.  Donnel (25/182) may have to share more time with not only Chase Price, but Marcus Stamps as well.  Mr. Stamps run of 34 yards was a combination of grace and bruising-cruising.  Imagine Bob Toledo working a few plays with a three back set of the following four:  Pumphrey, Price, Stamps and Gordon.  Linebackers wince at the mere thought.

A well deserved and timed week off allows Mr. Kaehler rest and rehab.  Same goes for all Aztecs suffering dings and dents.  Ezell Ruffin should return for the Idaho game (11/8), though do not be surprised if he plays against Nevada (11/1).

4-3/3-1.  At Nevada is the immediate challenge.  Less a complete breakdown, Idaho is a win.  Boise did not impress against Fresno.  Air Force is never easy.  San Jose needing overtime to beat Wyoming is a great sign for SDSU.  Worst case for the last 5 games is 3-2, though I’m hopeful for 5-0.  Call me greedy.