Posts Tagged ‘Maxwell Smith’

Who knew?

After a horrible, expectation deflating 1-3 start, we run the Mountain West table to finish 8-0 in conference.  Never thought this would or could happen.  Did not cross my mind (but not much does).

Nevada arrived ready to play even in light of the poorly managed announcement of their offensive coordinator accepting the Hawaii head coaching job.  Best to keep such changes quiet until after the game is played.  Maybe next time.  The first half was tit for tat.  The SDSU defensive backs, less Malik Smith (a stellar first half effort), gave up far too much yardage via Wolf Pack passing schemes that reminded me of Air Force’s sneak-behind-the-defensive-backs strategy.  Regardless, Nevada scored 14 points.

Long before the second half arrives, along with improvement, so does my much called for replacement of Maxwell Smith.  But not in the fashion delivered.  Christian Chapman played well.  6/9 for 44 yards and handing the ball off with extreme abandon (kidding) while rushing for 29 yards himself gives pause for thought.  Dual threat?  We will know more after December 5th.  However, on Mr. Chapman’s behalf, he played the entire game from the 7+ minute mark in the first quarter forward.  Only 7 of the eventual 31 points were scored prior to his arrival.  Donnel Pumphrey (23/157) was certainly irked by comments from a Nevada defensive back.  I want to thank that young man for angering Donnel to another great game.  Chase Price (19/118) ran like a player who knows the end is near.

The Aztec defense had 4 sacks and 2 picks.  Just another day at the office.  The notable Wolf Pack running duo of Don Jackson and James Butler were held to 3.1 and 2.5 yards per rush respectively.  The Nevada offense gained a mere 10 first downs.  Perhaps most telling was the 1 for 6 effort in third down conversions during the fourth quarter.  A tip of the helmet to the Aztec defense for finding itself in the second half.  Also, no second half points allowed.  All this without the injured Christian Heyward.

We will host Air Force for the first Mountain West Conference championship game and rightfully so.  Undefeated teams should host games, not teams with two conference defeats.  I feel better.  Air Force is always a concern given their offensive sets and general intense play.  A tough bunch.  For the moment we enjoy an overall record of 9-3 to accompany the 8-0 MWC record.  First place in the West division.  An eight game win streak.  What shall December 5th bring?


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.


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.

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.

So much is sad and disappointing about the title.


At home.

In overtime.

To South Alabama.

We should be 2-1, alas, coulda, shoulda, woulda.  Or wish in one hand while spitting in the other.  You get the point.

I wrote assuredly of our able defense at the beginning of the season.  I watched a pathetic, patchwork Aztec defensive effort yield 511 (!) total yards of offense on behalf of South Alabama.  Xavier Johnson averaged 7.5 yards per carry.  All 19 of them.  Our defensive line was of little effect.  Our linebackers overwhelmed.  Need further proof?  South Alabama scores on passing plays of 46 and 57 yards while also enjoying a lengthy touchdown run of 74 yards.

Maxwell Smith must sit.  Mr. Smith makes poor decisions, is absolutely immobile and fails to register any SEC seasoning on the field.  12 for 26 is not an Aztec quarterback.  Consider the 5 of 16 third down conversions.  Against South Alabama.  We cannot and do not move the football.  305 paltry offensive yards the entire game speaks to an anemic offense at best.  Finally, during the fourth quarter, San Diego State had the ball for better than 9 minutes.  We scored once.

Happy Valley will be a sad place for Aztec fans this Saturday.

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.




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.