Quinn Kaehler got off to a slow start missing on his first three attempts which we can likely blame on game one jitters as his timing was a little off, but he quickly settled in and managed to throw for over 200 yards and a touchdown. He found ten different receivers with his 18/29 passing. His only blemish was an interception when he rushed a pass while under pressure, which was rare in this game. What was most impressive is that Kaehler managed the game efficiently and didn't try or need to do too much. He spread the ball out and kept the L'Jacks' defense off balance for most of the game.
Running Backs: A
Sophomore Donnel Pumphrey showed why he is one of the best running backs in the Mountain West Conference. We hear a lot about his size being a potential concern, but that was clearly not a factor against a smaller NAU defense. He ran for 111 yards averaging almost 6 yards per carry and ran for two short TDs. Junior Chase Price and his power style complemented Pumphrey nicely with 45 more yards on the ground and a touchdown. The RBs combined for over 200 all-purpose yards.
Wide Receivers: B+
The Aztecs receivers did well but likely could have performed even better as they matched up against a very mediocre NAU secondary. Senior standout Ezell Ruffin and redshirt sophomore Eric Judge quickly identified themselves as Kaehler's favorite targets, catching a combined nine passes for over 100 yards. Junior tight end Robert Craighead caught a wide open short TD pass and was immediately congratulated by last year's TE (now fullback), Adam Roberts. And in case you didn't know it, sophomore Lloyd Mills is really fast and was highlighted on a reverse play good for 33 yards.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line, anchored by seniors Terry Poole and Zach Dilley, did a great job of protecting Kaehler and creating gaps for the running backs. This group may not have been truly tested against the L'Jacks D-line, but it really performed well as a unit.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line, led by senior DE Dontrell Onuoha, played well overall but only got to the QB a couple of times. Sophomore DT Alex Barrett found his way in the backfield often and will likely be a name we hear a lot this season. The run defense was very good all day.
Highlighted by sophomore Calvin Munson's 64-yard interception return, the LBs posted a solid effort. Micah Seau, Derek Largent, Codey Galea and Josh Gavert highlighted the Aztecs' LB depth, in spite of the injuries at the position.
Overall, a pretty good day for the corners and safeties, especially when considering the inexperience of the new safeties. The Aztecs held NAU to less than 200 yards passing, but did miss a number of tackles including a long play over the middle that sophomore Na'im McGee misplayed. To his credit though, McGee was everywhere and showed signs he will develop into a strong player at the "Aztec" position. Sophomore Malik Smith seemed to be in on nearly every play and broke up a couple of big pass plays. Safety Trey Lomax and cornerbacks Damontae Kazee and J.J. Whittaker also showed consistent play.
Special Teams: A
The Aztecs have found a place kicker in Donny Hagemen, the junior transfer from Mt. San Antonio junior college. Not only did he nail all of his extra points, but he drilled a 48 yard field goal. He later missed a 46 yard attempt, but most importantly he has gained the confidence of the coaches. Mills showed why he has been tabbed with punt return duties as he easily ran a punt back 67 yards for a TD.
The Aztecs did what they were supposed to do against an FCS team, albeit a very good FCS team. The memory of last year's opening day loss to Eastern Illinois can now be put to rest. The true test of just how good the Aztecs are will come during the next two road games against top tier opponents in North Carolina and Oregon State.
Stars of the game
Pumphrey, Smith and Hageman earn my stars of the game on offense, defense, and special teams, respectively.
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