Posts Tagged ‘Donny Hageman’

SDSU earned the win.  Air Force is never easy, never gives up.  With a mere five seconds remaining and a Hail Mary, until the ball falls to the ground and yellow flags remain in pockets, all was in play.  Thankfully, the ball fell to the ground.

I have never heard such volume and general noise from a crowd of barely 20,000 fans.  Well done each and every Aztec fan.  Why more of us, especially those of us who live in San Diego, do not attend games is a bit of mystery.  Regardless, when the “I Believe We Will Win” chant broke out, so did the momentum.

Consider the following:  Christian Chapman gets his first start and finishes 9/14/0 with a touchdown pass.  Plus, he runs for 32 yards.  Alex Barrett moves to the nose guard spot while Kyle Kelley takes Barrett’s spot.  This game was Kelley’s first start as well.  The conference championship win was consecutive win number 9.  We finish with 10 wins.  We have not lost since September.  The 24 points allowed was the most against a MW opponent the entire 2015 season.  Granted, Air Force is not a passing team, but holding any division one school to 35 yards passing is impressive.  Air Force was a miserable 2/11 in third down conversions.  Consider two of their scores were based on a fumbled punt and what should have been a lost fumble that was kicked a few dozen yards toward their goal line.

Offensively what I liked best was 10-10, 17-17, 24-24.  Our version of determination.  Finally, Donny Hageman settles the score with his 46 yard field goal (I will miss him) and the Aztec defense closes the game.

The Cincinnati Bearcats await.  Our first cousins when uniforms are discussed.  The Hawaii Bowl is perfectly fine with me.  To think of what might have been if we beat South Alabama.  Oh, well.  Spilt milk and all that.  10-3 sits fine with me.

A tip of the helmet to players, coaches and staff.  May Rocky Long coach the Aztecs forever.


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.

Three consecutive games of unbelievable defense.  Comprehensive in every sense of the word.  Less idiotic penalties, dare I say, perfect?  Perhaps I’m gushing, but the complete shut down of the offenses of Fresno State, Hawaii and San Jose State is impressive, awe-inspiring and downright wow.

Let us review the complete San Jose State beating:  35 yards rushing.  The much mentioned Tyler Ervin was held to 31 yards in 17 carries.  Mr. Ervin certainly had his opportunities.  SJSU rushing attempts yielded 1 yard per rush.  1 yard.  36 inches of grass and dirt.  As for the air, 113 yards passing.  That equates to barely 8 yards gained per completion.  Whether by foot or by air, the Spartans averaged less than a first down.  4 sacks (16 for the year), 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.  Applause, and lots of it, for the Aztec defense.  An Aztec defense without Dakota Turner and Trey Lomax.  An Aztec defense that featured J.J. Whitaker losing his mind via assaulting a Spartan wide receiver, thereby receiving the obligatory personal foul (this stuff must stop.  9 flags for 76 yards is stupid).  An Aztec defense featuring true freshman Ronley Lakalaka subbing for Jake Fely in the second half.  148 yards of total offense allowed by this stellar defense.

Darrell Greene’s return to the offensive line was notable.  Nothing against Robert Craighead, but Mr. Greene knows the business of blocking and pummeling his defensive opponent.  Addressing the obvious, Mr. Greene’s presence related directly to Maxwell Smith’s comfort.  While I continue to find astounding Mr. Smith’s lack of air production, he was much more a quarterback than any prior game.  10/14/144 is, again, serviceable.  No picks is extra nice.  The running game was almost as phenomenal as the SDSU defense.  Donnel Pumphrey (20/153) and Chase Price (10/47) led the way to the end zone and impressive drives.  However, I found at least one of Donny Hageman’s field goals should have been a touchdown (okay, two of his kicks should have been touchdowns), but I find confidence in his 3/3 evening via his foot.

Speaking of feet, Tanner Blain was NFL good by landing all three punts inside the fifteen, two of which were inside the ten.  Well done.

3-0.  Utah State is next.  The Aggies destroyed Boise State.  Not a team to be taken lightly.  Thankfully, at the Q is helpful.  The run continues.


The San Diego State Aztecs are a bad football team.  We are inept and ill prepared.  Five sacks, four fumbles, three of which were lost and the inability to catch a punt is indicative of a football team searching for its collective soul.

I, again, call for the end of Maxwell Smith’s reign as starting quarterback.  10 for 29 is not an Aztec quarterback.  Another anemic performance (and I’m being polite).  While acknowledging he was sacked five times, those sacks emphasize Mr. Smith’s lack of mobility that in turn results in an astonishingly bad 242 total yards of offense.  This is Aztec football?  Christian Chapman eludes some of those sacks because he can move from side to side, step into the pocket and actually run forward.  Mr. Smith was the primary author of 6 yards gained in the first quarter.  6.  The number found between 5 and 7.  In the second quarter, he revved up the offense to 72 total yards.  Feel the excitement.  Why does Rocky continue to start Mr. Smith?  Why does Jeff Horton remain blind to the need for change?  Finally, when a starting quarterback’s longest completed pass is 31 yards, the defense stuffs any and all attempts to establish a running game since the first seven guys can stand at the line of scrimmage and wave “hello” to Pumphrey, Price, Penny and Gordon.

Our field position was so bad that Donny Hageman was not handed a single field goal opportunity.  We converted a lousy 5 of 17 third down opportunities.  Boo.

8:16 represents the Aztecs time of possession for the entire first half.  Unbelievable.  In the second quarter, we had the ball for less than 4 minutes.  Incredible for the wrong reason.

The defense played better than the Cal and South Alabama games, but we continue to allow too many big plays especially on the back-end of the secondary.

Mountain West play begins this weekend.  We stumble into MW town with a 1-3 record looking disheveled, dirty and disoriented.  We haven’t played well the entire four games leading to MW play.  Cold comfort can be found that the rest of the West division played about as poorly as we did in non-conference games.  Fresno State and their loyal hordes of fans (yes, I’m jealous) roar into the Q next Saturday.  Candidly, the Aztecs must steam roll the rest of the schedule for any chance at a bowl game.  I trust change is underway and we will see a mobile, smart, redshirt freshman by the last name of Chapman directing our offense that will finally resemble an Aztec offense we can recognize.

Aztecs be concerned.  37-3 should be a time to expand the chest and walk about in pride.  But, not this game.  While not calling for fear, do find substantial pause for thought.

Granted, the defense was tremendous.  But, they should be tremendous against USD.  Holding the Toreros to less than 200 yards total offense deserves praise.  As does five picks.  As does two defensive touchdowns.  A great first game against a team that did not have a chance (no offense, USD).

And now for the concern.  Maxwell Smith was awful.  I mean Nick Bawden awful.  9/21 with an interception.  100 yards.  Sailing the ball past wide open receivers (and tight ends and running backs) all night.  Mr. Smith was appallingly ineffective.  Further proof (do you need any?) includes the 6/14 on third down conversions.  Against USD.  Please.  The offensive line must improve quickly.  As in the next few practices prior to Cal or we score no more than 10 points against the Bears.  The Aztec offense generated a measly 305 total yards.  Boo.  One offensive touchdown.  One.  Our defense outscored our offense.  Say those words again.  How about the 15 first downs?  Put up 15 first downs against any other opponent, even South Alabama, and we lose.  Badly.

Speaking of offense, thank you, Donny Hageman.  3/3 from 33, 36 and 37.  Confidence.  Perhaps the rest of the offense will consult with you.  Charge a fee.

To those of us sporting those ugly rose-colored glasses, lose them.  Stomp on those distorters (new word).  Smash.  Grind into the asphalt.  Say, “grrr” while doing so.  Very little to cheer about this effort.

On behalf of the 48,785 (a third of whom wandered in during the fourth quarter to discover a football game in progress), thank you.


Let’s begin on the offensive side of the ball.

QB:  As “fall” (honestly, any school west of the Rockies should choose a summer or pre-season description rather than any reference to autumn) camp concludes, Maxwell Smith will be named the starting quarterback.  Mr. Smith started for bad Kentucky teams against dauntingly good SEC (the AAA of the NFL) teams.  That experience is beyond valuable.  If Mr. Smith can limit mistakes and quickly grasp the offense of Jeff Horton, a flurry of offense is the result.  Backing Mr. Smith is Christian Chapman and the Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues.  Thankfully, Nick Bawden is now a fullback.

RB:  The best running back in the MW returns.  Donnel Pumphrey has no peer.  Fine, I admit New Mexico, Wyoming, Fresno State and Colorado State all possess at least one quality running back, but none quite so talented as Mr. Pumphrey.  Chase Price (a human bowling ball seeking immediate contact with linebackers), the injured Marcus Stamp whose depth chart spot will go to Rashaad Penny followed by Pumphrey-sized freshman, Juwan Washington, make for a talented group of running backs.

FB:  Dakota Gordon is entering Chad Young territory.  No higher praise can be offered to any Aztec fullback.

WR:  A point of major weakness in 2014.  Poor route running.  Extreme lack of concentration.  No confidence.  Alas, 2015 Aztec receivers cannot be any worse.  I choose to anticipate renewed vigor and focus given the arrival of the new wide receivers coach, Hunkie Cooper (how can you not have confidence in a man named Hunkie?).  Lloyd Mills (moments of brilliance during 2014), Mikah Holder, Eric Judge and Chase Favreau head a list of credible receivers.  Unlike the Bob Toledo years, look for two, rather than three, receivers at the line of scrimmage.

TE:  All five on the depth chart are listed at 6’5″, thus Maxwell Smith should not have difficulty finding any of them downfield.  If Daniel Brunskill and David Wells each develop a pair of hands, this position could be the surprise of the offense.

OL:  Darrell Greene’s six game suspension puts the damper on three of five returning starters.  Now Nico Siragusa and Pearce Slater are the shining light of return.  Kwayde Miller, Arthur Flores, Robert Craighead more than likely complete the starting five.  Austin Mass probably backs Mr. Flores at the center spot.  Joe Salcedo (redshirt freshman) impresses o-line coach, Mike Schmidt.  This group allows for a successful start or a few games of adjustment as the season begins.

DL:  Jon Sanchez, Christian Heyward and Alex Barrett may be the best d-line in the West of the Mountain West.

LB:  Calvin Munson was the defensive surprise of 2014.  Expect no drop-off in 2015.  If, if, Jake Fely is healthy, he and Mr. Munson will provide and deliver a substantial amount of energy and hurt.  Choose from Jay Henderson, Devante Davis or Ryan Dunn as the other starter.

DB:  What is the greatest benefit of the return of J.J. Whitaker, Damontae Kazee, Malik Smith, Trey Lomax and Na’im McGee?  They all started in 2014.  This lends to a certain calm, satisfying sleep pattern on behalf of Rocky Long.  Coaching these five becomes more of a conversation than instruction.  A great depth rarely found on a college football team.  This group is the strength of the 3-3-5.  Anticipate much more blitzing than any year since Mr. Long arrived on the Mesa.

K:  Donny Hageman and his wonderfully accurate foot return.

P:  Tanner Blain or Joe Weilbacher.  You choose.

LS:  Jeff Overbaugh (and a guaranteed NFL draft selection).

Coaches:  Jeff Horton remains the running backs coach while assuming offensive coordinator duties.  He has edited Bob Toledo’s playbook.  Rather, removed dozens of pages.  Simplicity is the theme.  With a new starting quarterback, I second the idea.  Hunkie Cooper, granted, has zero collegiate experience, but he brings an energy and demand upon the wide receivers not seen in years.  Bobby Hauck, who was seemingly 100-2 at Montana as head coach, should strengthen the special teams.  I find smart of athletic director Jim Sterk to have two ex-head coaches on staff in Mr. Horton and Mr. Hauck.  Whenever Mr. Long decides to retire, in-house replacement may be a convenient and effective theme.  Blaine Morgan enters year one as SDSU quarterbacks coach.  As a former Air Force Cadet quarterback, anticipate Mr. Morgan grooming a feet-don’t-fail-me-now option when all else fails with Aztec quarterbacks.  Media folks love to swoon over Mr. Long’s unique 3-3-5 alignment, but without a quality defensive coaching staff, a 3-3-5 equals 0.  Coaches Lewis (d-line), Arnett (linebackers), White (cornerbacks) and Gonzales (safeties) deserve a great deal of credit and note on behalf of a superb 2014 defensive effort that was nationally ranked.  Look for even greater defensive heights in 2015.

2015 Schedule:  Beginning the season against USD is less than ideal, but a game is a game.  At Cal follows.  An immediate test to determine the real ability of the Aztec defense.  South Alabama is the second home game.  The Jags recruit kids thought to be a step below SEC ability.  This game must find a prepared Aztec squad or this is a not so surprising loss.  Penn State at Happy Valley follows.  I’m predicting an Aztec win (at last) over a legendary football program.  Fresno State (and their impressive band of alumni travelers) opens MWC play at the Q.  Two road games follow:  at Hawaii and at San Jose State.  The Aztecs return home for the always challenging Aggies of Utah State.  A Halloween game at Fort Collins may bring heavy snow, high winds or a pleasant evening.  Wyoming, at UNLV and Nevada finish the 2015 season.  Since two of three are at the Q, opportunity exists to right any prior disappointment.  Worst case:  7-5.  Best case:  10-2.

Final thoughts:  Will 2015 finally yield a win over a PAC-12 school (Cal) or nationally recognized legend (Penn State)?  Will Donnel Pumphrey rush for a minimum of 100 yards each game?  Is Jeff Horton’s offensive scheme simple enough or too simple?  Does an Aztec defense returning eight defensive starters smash opposing offenses or suffer from a case of overconfidence?  As always, stay tuned.