Posts Tagged ‘Lucas Johnson’

Winning a bowl game is the absolute best way to end a season. As Texans say, “Yee haw!”

The first quarter the Roadrunners of UT San Antonio were as advertised. Lots of offensive spark and a decent defense. The Aztecs first offensive series was a quick 3 and done. Thankfully, that sequence did not set the tone. Proof, you ask? In addition to the 38 points, I offer 488 total yards of offense.

Lucas Johnson had the game of his life: 24/36/333 with 3 passing touchdowns (2 to Jesse Matthews, who also had the game of his life to date, and 1 to Tyrell Shavers). Mr. Johnson also found time to run for 1 td. 5 appearances in the almighty red zone resulted in 4 touchdowns and 1 field goal.

Greg Bell had his first above average game since the New Mexico game (October 9th for those of you wondering). 101 yards on 26 carries. Good, but not great, though he did assist greatly in running out the clock in the fourth quarter. Mr. Bell ran 9 consecutive carries without mishap leaving the final 2 rushes to Chance Bell, thus eliminating the final 7:13 in the game. Well done.

Returning to Mr. Matthews, wow. 11/175 and above mentioned 2 td catches. He was everywhere. His facial expression was intolerant of loss. Thank goodness.

Next to the win, the highlight of the night was Kaegun Williams making a surprise appearance during a UTSA kickoff which he took for a healthy 52 yards.

The Aztec defense had a bit of an off night. Rare was the hit on Frank Harris, the Roadrunner qb. Giving up 388 total yards was indicative of a slow start generally improved upon as the game continued. CJ Baskerville’s third quarter pick at the SDSU 31 yard line was the defensive moment of the game. Good bye, UTSA drive.

The officials struck me as flag happy. They were quite fond of the little yellow hankie. 14 penalties for 124 yards? C’mon. We were not a band of pirates having a collective bad night.

2021 is a year to remember: 12-2.

Go Aztecs.

UNLV’s defense was to be admired. They played well and then some. They stuffed our run game for a total of 98 yards (if Jordan Byrd does not break off his second half sprint, our run game would have been less than 50 yards). The Rebel defense kept the Aztec offense to 290 total yards. Yet, we won. At times I wonder how and why.

Speaking of defense, the Aztecs gave up a whopping 394 yards of UNLV offense. We made Justin Rogers look like Nick Nash II. Mr. Rogers tormented us coming off the bench. He finished with a line of 15/21/305 and threw two touchdowns. Charles Williams did not torment us. The Aztec defense stuffed him for a line of 16/35 (2.2 yards per rush). Andrew Aleki returning an interception for a first quarter td and Seyddrick Lakalaka picking off Mr. Rogers at the 1:53 mark in the fourth quarter provided the defensive highlights for SDSU. And, yes, Keshawn Banks was offside prior to the snap that led to Mr. Lakalaka’s pick. Win some, lose some.

Lucas Johnson (look at his eyes and facial expression and tell me he does not look like a beach stoner) posted a 18/24/192 and 3 td evening. All while enduring 3 sacks and 1 interception. Jesse Matthews rose from the dust of little use the last few games and caught all three of Mr. Johnson’s td passes. Greg Bell gaining 2 yards on a fourth and one at the UNLV thirteen with 5:35 in the fourth quarter ultimately set the stage for Mr. Matthews third td. Sometimes football is ugly before beautiful. By the way, great call Brady Hoke.

6-1/10-1.

Go Aztecs.

What a game, what a game, what a game.

Both defenses were pound city. Smack, hammer, slam and repeat. Get up. More is on the way.

As for the Aztec offense, meh. But, meh was good enough to win. Lucas Johnson was a serviceable 11/13. Though his 72 yards was poor. Yet, I will not complain. Greg Bell did not make an appearance until the 12:30 mark in the third quarter. In his place, Jeff Hecklinski proved a rotation of Kaegun Williams, Jordan Byrd and Chance Bell was more than effective: We gathered the occasional first down, scored now and then, and kept the ball. 229 yards of total offense was bland, but enough.

The SDSU defense was stellar plus. Kurt Mattix is a man with a plan. Swarm to the ball. Hit hard and often. Air Force had a total of 259 yards. Only 192 rushing yards. Wow-wee. Oh, yeah, 4/16 on third down. A deep bow to the Air Force receiver, #0, who dropped a pass that would have been a touchdown. Luck and talent are hard to beat. Keshawn Banks’ second quarter ankle grab of the A.F. quarterback was brilliant. Mr. Banks introduced a new form of “gotcha!”. Dallas Branch’s one-handed interception set the tone for the game. Air Force had the ball with 2:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and did nothing. By the way, congrats to Mr. Branch, Vai Kaho and Desmond Bessent for joining the starters.

3-0/7-0. Who knew?

Go Aztecs.

If you enjoy the spectacle of 3 (!) overtime periods to cap off a tie score that never should have been, Saturday afternoon into evening was your kind of game. All present received more than their money’s worth.

A 10-10 halftime score was the result of the following defensive slugfest:

The Utes offense was pummeled to the effect of 19 yards rushing, 70 yards passing, 1/9 third down conversions and their o-line allowing their qb (prior to third quarter banishment) to suffer 3 Aztec sacks.

The Aztec offense “generated” 56 rushing yards, 23 (oy vey) passing yards and a glamorous 0/7 on third down attempts. Feeble defined.

Fear not! Much like the New Mexico State game, the second half featured offense. Specifically, 2 touchdowns courtesy of Greg Bell and a bruising effort by the Aztec offensive line with applause directed at center Alama Ulave and right tackle Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson for clearing the deck on behalf of Mr. Bell.

With 5:23 remaining in the third quarter, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had seen enough of Charlie Brewer at qb, thus pulled Mr. Brewer and replaced him with Cameron Rising. Quarterback’s replaced is always a cringe moment . . . is he much less talented . . . is he capable of charging the offense . . . Mr. Rising was seemingly coated in grease as he scrambled, ran, twisted, pardoned-me-excused-me his way downfield and engineered the Utes comeback to tie the game at 24. AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Matt Araiza chose a bad time to be human by missing 2 field goal attempts (okay, missing from 48 in the fourth quarter wasn’t a gimme, but missing from 37 in ot was). However, I must offer kudos to Mr. Araiza for participating in a tackle during one of his kickoffs. Pure moxie.

The tit for tat continued during overtime possessions with the Utes matching us and us matching them until the blessed call that overturned their final 2 point score (yes, the ball did hit the ground before the catch was made) much to the delirious delight of Aztec players, coaches and fans (who, by the way, made an astounding amount of noise given the number present), thus sealing this year’s PAC-12 record at 2-0 (7-2 for the last 9 games for those of you wondering).

I have moaned and protested about Jordon Brookshire as our starting qb and overtly lobbied without shame for him to be replaced with Lucas “Hamstring” Johnson. Well, I received my wish to the result of 10/19/44 (yes, 44 yards passing. Total. No more). His longest completion was 15 yards. Strangely, of his 10 completions, 9 different receivers enjoyed catching the football. I found cold comfort with his rushing line of 10/87 (averaging 10.9 per dash). What the hell, we won.

Jordan Byrd’s 100 yard return was the stuff of Aztec special teams lore. Greg Bell earned every one of his 119 yards. Lots of bruises received and given, I’m sure.

If I would have been told prior to the game that we would win while registering 12 first downs, 3/15 on third down conversions and 44 passing yards, I would have laughed and encouraged medication consumption.

3-0.

Go, Aztecs.

Last year was a year to forget. “Season” is a relative term especially when your school plays a mere 8 games. However, finishing 4-4/4-2 was disappointing. I refuse excuses such as the circus of phone calls and cancellations that finally led to a trip to Boulder where our offense sputtered, stalled and collapsed, thus summing most Aztec offensive efforts for 2020. A successful 2021 season demands a functional offense that puts the ball in the end zone on a regular basis. Three and out moments cannot be the rule of the day. If so, third place in the West division will be the shoulder shrugging result.

Offense: We need a lot of offense during 2021. Whomever wins the quarterback competition will be expected to direct the Aztec offense into the end zone, especially once inside the sacred red-zone. Score and score often. Please.

Quarterback: Lucas Johnson, Jordon Brookshire and Jaylen Mayden will continue the battle royale for the starting spot into August practice. One of the three always pulls a hamstring, one has grand difficulty throwing a pass in excess of 25 yards and the other I know nothing about less his Texas high school football video highlights. You can guess who is who. My hope is a healthy Lucas Johnson coupled with an ever improving Jalen Mayden share the qb duties. I realize my hope is heresy in established football circles because I dare suggest the sharing of the position. However, my reason for duality is the almost guaranteed moment when Mr. Johnson encounters hamstring issues, therefore Mr. Mayden is more than ready.

Running Backs: Greg Bell’s health determines if SDSU has an effective running game in 2021. Sure, Kaegun Williams (4.8 ypr), Chance Bell (4.9 ypr) and Jordan Byrd (6.4 ypr) will continue to receive significant play time, but the running game (and offense) was not the same once Greg Bell (5.6 ypr) was dogged by an ankle injury. Given post-spring practice coaching comments about Jaylon Armstead, I assume he will be in the above mix. Less Mr. Armstead, all the above are seniors, thus offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski and running backs coach Jeff Horton need to groom talent for 2022.

Wide Receivers: A position completely underutilized in 2020. 24 was the greatest number of receptions by an Aztec receiver last year which is a massive dud. Jesse Matthews should (a dangerous word) at least double that number in 2021. Kobe Smith (13 catches), Elijah Kothe (7 catches), TJ Sullivan, Isaiah Richardson, BJ Busbee and Ethan Dedeaux form a competent corps of wide receivers eager to catch and run in 2021. Aztecs of all shapes and sizes and positions caught a total of 115 balls (barely 14 completions per game) in 2020. Increasing that number to 220 will offer proof that the 2021 SDSU offense is indeed balanced between the throw and run.

Tight End: Daniel Bellinger (21 catches for a tad less than 10 yards per catch last year) must be put to greater use in 2021. I hope Mr. Hecklinski calls Mr. Bellinger’s number 6 to 8 times per game during the upcoming season. Standing 6’6 and weighing 255 pounds, he is tough to miss. The #2 tight end will be either Connor McBride or Jay Rudolph.

Offensive Line: This group will be a strong point in 2021 especially with the addition of Mike Goff as offensive line coach. Yes, Mike Schmidt was a fine coach, but too many moments arose the last two years exposing inadequate, sustained blocking that squashed a would be 10+ yard rush into a stumble just past the line of scrimmage. Mr. Goff will be a welcome change for all involved. Joey Capra, Dominic Gudino (please stay healthy), Chris Martinez, Alama Uluave and William Dinkle (see Mr. Gudino) and Zachary Thomas bring a wealth of experience and skill. Kyle Trombley and Tommy Mirabella likely join the 2021 rotation.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix delivered big time ( an Uncle Teddy phrase. Those of you who don’t know the person referred to are not real Aztec football or basketball fans. Shame, you pretenders) in 2020. Last year’s Aztec defense allowed less than 18 points a game and less than 100 yards rushing per game. 283.5 yards of opponents’ offense was the average over the course of last year. Yet, we went 4-4 because of our poor offense. Sure, defensive generated turnovers ending in the end zone are welcome, not expected.

Defensive Line: Much like their brothers on the o-line, a place of strength in 2021. Keshawn Banks, Cameron Thomas anchor the front three. The winner of the Connor Mitchell, Kahi Neves, Jonah Tavai and Jalil Lecky August practice competition determines the #3 starter with the others appearing in game rotation this season.

Linebackers: Caden McDonald, Michael Shawcroft, Seyddrick Lakalaka, Andrew Aleki, Andrew Alves and Segun Olubi represent the best group of linebackers in the entire Mountain West.

Defensive Backs: Much is to be replaced with departure of Tariq Thompson, Dwayne Johnson and Darren Hall who were also the top three tacklers in 2020. Trenton Thompson, Tayler Hawkins and Patrick McMorris are looking for two more Aztecs to make a competent defensive backfield. Rashad Scott is rumored to be healthy once again. Kyron White, Noah Tumblin and Dallas Branch compete to fill the available spots.

Kicking: The talented Matt Araiza will provide many an accurate kick between the goal posts.

Punting: Jack Browning or true freshman Collyn Hopkins compete for the honor. However, if both falter, Mr. Araiza can punt, though head coach Brady Hoke would rather have him concentrate solely on his field goal opportunities.

2021 Schedule

New Mexico State is a win. A ready-to-play Aztec team dominates the Aggies.

@ Arizona results in better coaching beating the Wildcats in Tucson.

Utah will be prepared as they enter Carson for a road game against a MWC school. Potentially a close game, but the Utes win.

Towson: Having read through the Tigers roster, they sport a plethora of transfers from better division I schools. If SDSU starts flat, this game could be a disappointing loss. However, I choose the Aztecs.

New Mexico: This game follows SDSU’s first off week. Containing the UNM rushing game will be key. Aztecs win by a healthy margin.

@ San Jose State: Our first MWC road game and a doozy (cool word) in the waiting. Spartan qb Nick Starkel is talented and so is his receiving corps. This game is won or lost in the air. Last possession wins the game. Sadly, I go with the Spartans.

@ Air Force: This game is scheduled for October 23. In Colorado Springs. The weather will be psychotic. As the SJSU game will be air dominated, the Falcons will do little flying. Both teams will pound and ground. SDSU in a close one because we can throw better than the birds.

Fresno State: As stated in my MWC West preview, I sense Bulldog football is taking a step backward. This game will be the Bulldog’s ninth game. If they arrive 6-2 or 5-3, the game will be close. Anything less, not so much. The Aztecs win.

@ Hawaii: If the Aztec defense controls the Hawaii passing offense, a fairly easy win. Hawaii’s defense has problems stopping any type of competent offense. SDSU wins and enjoys the flight home.

Nevada: Last year’s 26-21 loss to the Wolfpack in Reno was pure coulda, shoulda, woulda. Carson Strong is one of the top three MWC qbs. Nevada has proven talent galore returning on both sides of the ball. Nevada.

@ UNLV: The Rebels coaching staff was brand new last year. New schemes, new attitude, new everything except the result at game’s end. Aztecs by at least 17.

Boise State: This game begins at 9:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t care. And neither will the SDSU coaching staff. The Bronco passing game often shuts the door on opponents. I go with the class of the Mountain division.

2021’s result will be 8-4/5-3. If my prediction of losing to both San Jose State and Fresno State rings true, we finish third in the West. A bowl game is likely, though not guaranteed.

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.