By Ken Ables (@ka619sd)
No Aztec fan is happy with Saturday’s results. The team worked too hard to have the regular season end that way. But that final result should not detract from the fact that the Aztecs are 11-2, headed to their 11th bowl in the past 12 seasons and have the program’s first ever national award recipient: Ray Guy Award winning punter – and first team All American – Matt Araiza.
Four other Aztec teams have won 11 games, but all of them won #11 in their bowl. The 2021 squad is the first Aztec team to win 11 in the regular season. 1969 was the Aztecs’ first season in D1, and it was a memorable one.
What a start!
Led by Head Coach Don Coryell and QB Dennis Shaw, the Aztecs finished their first regular season in D1 a perfect 10-0 and champion of the newly formed PCAA (12th conference championship). Their reward: a date in the Pasadena Bowl with Boston University.
The Terriers scored first and led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. But after that it was all Aztecs.
WR John Featherstone, filling in for injured Tom Reynolds, caught two touchdown passes: 34 yards from Shaw, and 57 yards from Brian Sipe. The Aztecs also scored on two rushing touchdowns, including one by Sipe. Final: Aztecs 28, Terriers 7. Featherstone was named Player of the game. Attendance: 41,276 – overwhelmingly Aztec fans, including me.
With the Pasadena Bowl victory, the 1969 Aztecs finished the season 11-0 for the second time in four seasons. The 11 wins were part of the 55-1-1 record that stretched from 1965 to 1970.
The game featured two players who would excel the next season in the NFL. Aztec QB Dennis Shaw was named 1970 Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Bills; Boston U. DB Bruce Taylor was the Defensive Rookie of the year with the 49ers.
It was a great Aztec team that included four All Americans, 11 All-PCAA that year, 12 NFL draft picks, NCAA record holders and leasers, as well as future members of the Aztec and College Football Halls of Fame, an NFL MVP and a famous Hollywood boxer. Who were these great Aztecs?
All Americans (4) – Henry Allison, 1st team (1970), Tim Delaney 3rd, HM (1970-71), Brian Sipe HM (1970-71), Leon Van Gorkum HM (1970)
1969 All-PCAA (11) – Tim Burnett DL, Tim Delaney TE, Lee Felice OT, Billie Hayes DB, Bill Pierson C, Tom Reynolds WR, Dennis Shaw QB, Tom Shellabarger OT, Bill Van Leeuwen DL, Carl Weathers LB, Lon Woodard DL.
Drafted by NFL (12) – Dennis Shaw QB (Bills), Billie Hayes DB (Bengals), Lon Woodard DE (Saints), Bill Pierson C (Jets), Ken Burrow WR (Falcons), Henry Allison G (Eagles), Tom Shellabarger T (Eagles), Tom Hayes DB (Falcons), Leon Van Gorkum DE (Chargers), Lindsey James RB (Falcons), Tom Reynolds WR (Patriots), Brian Sipe QB (Browns).
Aztec Hall of Fame (7) – Don Coryell, Dennis Shaw, Brian Sipe, Tim Delaney, Tom Reynolds, Henry Allison, Claude Gilbert.
NFL Honors – Offensive Rookie of the Year: Dennis Shaw, Bills (1970); MVP: Brian Sipe QB, Browns (1980).
College Football Hall of Fame – Don Coryell, Head Coach
And who was that Hollywood boxer? None other than Aztec LB Carl Weathers who later gained fame as Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies.
Air Coryell at its finest
Under Don Coryell’s sophisticated passing offense, the Aztecs set several NCAA records that season, including 6 TD catches in a game by Tim Delaney, 7 TD passes in a half by Dennis Shaw and 10 team TD passes (all vs. New Mexico State). Tom Reynolds set the NCAA record with 18 TD receptions. The 1969 Aztecs were national leaders in several categories:
- Team total offense, avg. per game: 532.2 yards
- Team passing offense, avg. per game: 374.2 yards
- Team scoring offense, avg. per game: 46.4 points
- Total offense: Dennis Shaw, 3,197 yards
- Passing efficiency: Dennis Shaw, 162.2 points
Two members of the 1969 team were national leaders in 1971. QB Brian Sipe completed 17.8 passes per game and WR Tom Reynolds led receivers with 1,070 yards.
The Aztecs continued their winning streak through the first nine games of the 1970 season. I can’t think of another team that started out in Division 1 with a 20-0 record. With a win in the Frisco Bowl, the 2021 Aztecs will become the first team in program history to win 12 games in one season.
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