Posts Tagged ‘MWC’

Candidly, Rocky ranks with Don Coryell.  He was better than Claude Gilbert.  Rocky’s nine years at San Diego State produced an overall record of 81 – 38 (.681) and MWC record of 51 – 20 (.718).  None of his Aztec teams finished with an overall .500 record or losing record.  Only once in MWC play was .500 the result (4 – 4 during 2018).  He won 10 games twice (2017 and 2019).  He won 11 games twice (2015 and 2016).  Over a three year period, his Aztec teams posted a total of 32 wins.  Not bad for a head coach with the soul of a defensive coordinator.

Bowl game appearances became the norm rather than the exception during Rocky’s tenure at San Diego State.  Nine seasons produced nine bowls.  Sure some games were as disappointing as a pair of socks on Christmas morning.  Other games (the wins) were built for Aztecs fans’ memories:  Stomping Buffalo on a frigid night in Boise (49 – 24); ruining Cincinnati’s Hawaiian vacation (42 – 7); my personal favorite was the complete dismantling of Houston (34 -10.  In my not so humble opinion the best Aztec effort on both sides of the ball . . . ever) and the good-bye, Rocky game against Central Michigan (48 – 11).

Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Rocky’s defenses gave away a season average of 30+ points once (31.7 in 2013).  2011’s defense was the next “worse”:  25.8 points allowed per game.  Two teams (2016 and 2017) allowed an identical 20.2.  His best defenses were 2014 (19.8), 2015 (16.4) and an absolutely crushing 12.7 in 2019.  His speciality was stuffing the run.  Opponents averaged barely 72 rushing yards per game in 2019.  Consider, that total is shy of 3/4s of a football field.  2018’s defense allowed 94.5 rushing yards per game (still a tad shy of an entire field and definitely end-zone free).  The SDSU defenses from 2015 – 2017 allowed 111.2, 111.9 and 110.4 rushing yards per game respectively.  From 2015 to 2019, Aztec rushing defense was rated in the top 5 for three years (2015, 2018, 2019), top 10 for one year (2017) and 11th overall in 2016.

During Rocky’s nine years, the offense wasn’t reminiscent of past glory (Coryell and Gilbert), but the Aztecs put the ball in the end zone and between the uprights often enough to generate those win percentages of .681 and .718.  Plus, we watched the impressive skill sets of Ronnie Hillman, Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny running this way and that way, over, under and through to great effect.  Speaking of those fine running backs (and not mentioned other running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends), 7 of Rocky’s 9 years featured offenses that scored between 25 points and 35 points.  Sure his final two years I dare not use the word “featured” to describe the Aztec offense.  Rather, “cringe worthy”, “red zone reluctant” and “pathetic” best portray the SDSU offensive efforts of 2018 and 2019.  Then again, who is perfect?

Rocky’s worst finish in MWC play was his first year (2011) as head coach, a seemingly unpromising 4th.  None of his Aztec teams finished 4th again.  Rocky’s teams finished first or tied for first five seasons including consecutive MWC championships in 2015 and 2016.  SDSU finished second in 2013 and 2017.  Third once in 2018.

Finally, his head coaching efforts against the infamous power-5 resulted in an overall record of 6-9.  His 2011 squad knocked off Washington State in 2011, then promptly lost the next eight non-conference games against p-5 schools.  However, from 2016 to 2019, his Aztec teams went 5-1 against the big boys.  PAC-12 games, always of note given our California residency, resulted in a 6-5 record which included the aforementioned run of 5-1.

The days of his souring media demeanor as the season progressed will be missed.  By mid-October, his press conferences (pre or post) featured a man who would rather be in his dentist’s chair than speaking to a writer from any media outlet.  His perpetual folded arms while roaming the sidelines represented a coach who simply wanted the last two minutes of the game to grind out another victory.  His back turned to all things offense during timeouts was the sign of extreme confidence in not only his offensive coordinator, but also his entire offensive coaching staff.  Much like a man lost in a kitchen who loves to eat.

Rocky Long returns to the University of New Mexico in 2020.  How long he stays, who knows?  He can always come back to the beach and offer an idea or two.

 

 

 

The promising start of 6 – 1 crumbles to 7 – 6.  Four consecutive losses.  The fourth was an absolute butt kicking courtesy of the Ohio Bobcats, 27-0.  The Aztec offense imploded.  We resembled a fourth grade effort at building a papier-mache volcano project gone horribly wrong.  Crap was everywhere with nothing to show.  The game’s end shutout provides emphasis for areas to improve in 2019.  Offense, offense, offense and, um, let’s see, offense.

Rocky and Jeff need to reconsider their commitment to pound and ground given the fact that once Juwan Washington was injured three of the next four games featured SDSU rushing totals of less than 200 yards.  His first game after recovering from his injury also featured  a game total of less than 200 yards . . . as did the next two games as well.  Pound and ground?  More like slap and tickle.  This unimpressive result lies at the collective feet of the offensive line and to a lesser extent the tight ends.  Certainly, injury played a part, but which season does injury not play a part in the journey of an offensive line?  Mike Schmidt has much to fix next year during spring and summer ball.

Perhaps a more balanced offense would contribute to an improved offensive line.  Yet, I have doubts that Ryan Agnew is “the guy” for 2019.  A completion percentage of 51.6% does not create an abundance of confidence.  Granted, Christian Chapman’s 89 passing attempts given to Mr. Agnew might generate an improved completion rate and a sizable increase of his 1,651 total yards passing.  However, might implies might not.

Given the stellar years of Kahale Warring and Parker Houston at the tight-end spots, I trust coach Horton will continue to incorporate passes in their general direction.  I congratulate coach Hunkie Cooper for offering a strong three-deep on each side of the quarterback group of wide receivers during 2018.  At last, we have receivers who can stretch the field after catching the football.  Let’s stretch more often in 2019.

Returning to the running game, I feel the need to abandon the fullback as permanent partner of Mr. Washington.  How about a dual running back set more offensive snaps than not?  Also, I am unconvinced that Chase Jasmin is the #2 back.  I lean towards Chance Bell.  He runs with more abandon and inflicts pain on those attempting to tackle him.

2018 sputtered to an offensive close of 187 passing yards per game and a very un-Aztec 161.7 rushing yards per game.  Feeble, pale, unsteady.  More proof?  All four MWC losses were single digit.  By 4 to Nevada, 3 to UNLV, 9 to Fresno and 1 to Hawaii.  17 points total.  Our offense could not find 18 more points.  What about the seven wins?  The 14 point difference against Sacramento State provided the only double-digit win of the season.  “Single digit” was the Aztec offense nickname and a ready title for a convention of underachievers.  If “single digit” doesn’t motivate, what will?

As for the 2018 defense, less the first (Stanford) and last (Ohio) games of the season, the SDSU defense held their end of the bargain.  Sure, the defensive backfield can improve, but the front three and linebacking crew were outstanding.  When the opposition is held to an average of 334.6 total yards per game accented with allowing an average of only 3 yards per carry, the defense creates hope.  Also, how many head coaches and offensive coordinators (especially) would give a body part for a defense that allowed an average of 22.2 points per game?  Big-12 coaches would offer wives and children for that chance to win.  Frankly, I’m not sure how Rocky improves on giving up less than 231 passing yards per game and less than 104 rushing yards per game.  Though, he will try.

May spring and summer ball create the return of an Aztec offense that blows past 400 yards per game, one way or the other.

 

What a game, what a game.

Best loss of Rocky’s tenure.  Why?  Because we marched 99 yards in 1 minute, 7 seconds and scored.  Christian Chapman looked like a quarterback.  No offense (or pun), but at times I wonder if he can throw for 200 plus yards on a regular basis.  He did so Saturday.

As for Rocky’s two-point conversion call that failed, to those of you whining, stop.  Rocky being Rocky is part of Rocky.  Also, this is the second loss of the season and first MWC loss.  Remember the days when we dreamed of a two loss season?  Wouldn’t that be swell?  Guess what?  Two losses is swell.

I listened to the game on the phone for one very good reason:  Finding a bar in Pacific Beach that features C-CBS is akin to finding fresh water in the Pacific.  I do enjoy listening to Uncle Teddy broadcast Aztec athletic events, but I must ask Ted to refrain from the “depleted defense” comments.  No we are not.  Na’im McGee, Randy Ricks, Tyler Morris and John Carroll have been sidelined most of the year.  We are fine.  Losing Derek Babiash, Billy Vaughn, Jr and Fred Melifonwu to self-inflicted idiocy was also overcome.  The Aztecs are loaded with talented football players.  No more “woe is us” dear Uncle Teddy.

However, I felt that we arrived not ready to commit to the season long, less South Alabama, idea of arriving in a bad mood to greet opponents with football in hand.  We were lethargic especially the defensive back 5.  Tackling with both arms and wrapping up seemed to be optional.  I trust this will not be an issue for the remainder of the season.

Hats off to Jay Henderson.  I do not know the football sin committed by Ryan Dunn, but Mr. Henderson was a more than able replacement.  Another deep sweep of the hat to Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington.  These two make for an ultra talented pair of kick off returners on an extraordinary level.  A side comment to Mr. Penny regarding his runs from scrimmage, please stop running out of bounds.  Take a hit and get another couple of yards.

I opened with referencing the closing drive, I must also mention the end of the first half drive.  Not quite the length of the field, but close.  And a touchdown as well.  The SDSU offense does impress when time is of the essence.

Wyoming’s qb, Josh Allen, is a first round pick in the making.  Impressive arm and decision making.  The Wyoming defensive line was also effective.  Donnel Pumphrey rarely found a rushing attempt in excess of four yards.  Cowboy linebackers were quick to fill the rare hole.

Returning to the Aztec defense, allowing 5.8 yards per play while showing the Pokes 84 offensive plays is the perfect recipe for a long day.  Further testament to the lackluster effort of the back 5 was Mr. Allen’s 17.6 yards per completed pass.  Far too much grass was given.  Also, when was the last time an opposing qb threw 31 attempts while rushing for 69 yards?  Tis a no-no.  Finally, Wyoming enjoying 9/17 on third down conversions and 2/2 on fourth down is not to be repeated.  A poor Aztec defensive effort.

Colorado State closes the MWC season less the conference championship game.  Hmm.  Senior day.  Alex Barrett, Kyle Kelley, Calvin Munson, Austin Wyatt-Thayer, Malik Smith and Damontae Kazee all say “good-bye” to the Q and Aztec faithful.  Motivated?  Good luck to the Rams offense.  The flip side features Kwayde Miller, Nico Siragusa, Arthur Flores, Daniel Brunskill, Curtis Anderson and a running back by the name of Donnel Pumphrey playing together for the last time down the street from the beach.  Should be fun.

9-2/6-1.

 

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?

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.

Offense

Quarterbacks:  Anytime productive, returning starting quarterbacks return, bonus points await.  Quinn Kaehler will notably improve upon last year’s numbers.  Bob Toledo has stated that he intends to add many a layer to this year’s offense.  Mr. Burns may as well add another hound.  Warren Buffet may as well want to make more money.  Kaehler will average better than 35 attempts this year and more than 300 yards a game.  Aztec receivers will be most pleased.  More on the receiving corps later.  Nick Bawden named the back-up to Kaehler was a surprise.  On behalf of all, may Mr. Bawden see nothing more than mop up work deep into the fourth quarter during 2014.

Running Backs:  Listening to Donnel Pumphrey explain during a recent 1090 broadcast that he had “put on weight” only to land at 170 pounds was worth a laugh.  Donnel will never take an extended defensive pounding, but he can run, he can turn a corner and as Ted Leitner will say many a time during Donnel’s Aztec years:  “He’s gone!”  The partner back, whether Chase Price or Marcus Stamps, will be a bruiser.  Lucky Radley (the Utah transfer) may well offer a surprisingly productive single year as an Aztec.  Adam Roberts may not block as well as Chad Young (who does?), but Adam will tuck away many a short pass from Kaehler at a key time to keep a drive alive or slide over the goal line.  Both back ups, Dakota Gordon and Chris Hokokian, are juniors looking to impress for 2015.

Receivers:  I include tight ends with the tall skinny guys.  Ezell Ruffin should have a mammoth year.  Sure, he’ll suffer many a double team, but with Toledo’s decision to enhance all things offense, a double team will cost the opposition as much as one-on-one with Ezell.  Larry Clark, Eric Judge, Jemond Hazely, Robert Craighead and Daniel Brunskill bring experience.  Paul Pitts and Lloyd Mills are the best of the rest in waiting.

O-Line:  Compared to last year’s hand wringing at this time, seems the Aztecs do not have much concern.  Size is important, but more so quick feet.  Terry Poole (310 lbs), Nico Siragusa (325 lbs), Darrell Greene (315 lbs) and Pearce Slater (335 lbs) are reported fine dancers.  The “light” Zach Dilley (a mere 295 lbs) will snack his way to the triple hundred club.  Paul Rodriguez, Jordan Smith and Garrett Corbett are experienced and too far down the depth chart.  Alas, Rocky believes in daily competition.

Defense

D-Line:  I’m a bit flummoxed at the concern.  I see five guys with experience.  Perhaps too much is made of Dontrell Onuoha as the only returning starter and Cody Galea’s switch to the linebacking corps.  Jon Sanchez, Sam Meredith, Alex Barrett and Kenny Galea’i played effectively last year.  Truly a group that improved as the season wore on.  I look for a jump in sacks and general knock downs from this group.  To think, if Christian Heyward ever realizes his health and potential, this group could be imposing.

Linebackers:  How quickly strength can become weakness.  With Jake Fely and Josh Gavert out until who knows when, Derek Largent indeed becomes the old man.  Galea, while new to the linebacking position, brings three years of experience into the 2014 season.  Rocky has stated that Galea will occupy a pseudo line position at the start of each snap, thus modifying the 3-3-5, but this strikes me as an opportunity for Rocky to be creative.  Fred Melifonwu, Calvin Munson, Mich Seau and Devante Davis will be busy.  Many a true freshmen (four are listed on the 8/12/14 depth chart) may receive a swift introduction to division one football.

The Last Five (or commonly known as the defensive backfield in other programs):  The safety concerns are well-known.  I expect a burn or two especially against UNC and the Beavers.  Hopefully, whatever is given away defensively can be recaptured offensively.  Regardless, Na’im McGee does bring juco experience and Trey Lomax is backed up by the experienced TJ Hickman.  Malik Smith and Pierre Romain will one-two the other Warrior spot until one out plays the other.  J.J. Whittaker and Damontae Kazee will be the best corner duo in the MWC by season’s end.

Special Teams and the Rest:  McMorrow’s fall from grace continues.  Joel Alesi keeps the punting job.  Newcomer Danny Hageman is the kicker . . . for now.  McMorrow lingers behind both.  The kickoff and punt returns will be the usual exercise in control and fumble avoidance, but I can’t wait to see Marcus Stamps return a kickoff with a head of steam underway.  Cleats will fly.  Jeff Overbaugh is back for year three as the long snapper.  The best compliment one can give a long snapper is only senior long snappers receive mention as the draft approaches.  We will hear much about Jeff next year.

A note of caution.  The shortcoming that drove me crazy last year was the defense taking the first half to get in game mode.  Granted, Rocky always makes the halftime adjustment, but this year, I’d much rather enjoy the sight of a finely tuned defense game ready at the coin flip rather than the first minute of the second half.

Prediction:  Best case, 10-2.  Worst case, 8-4.  Another bowl game either way.  The offense averages near 450 yards per game.

May health be an Aztec blessing.