Christian Chapman

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San Diego State tops No. 19 Stanford despite stadium lights going out

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Head coaches always love to say they played lights out after a tough Saturday of college football. In the case of No. 19 Stanford and San Diego State they mean it quite literally.

With just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the banks of lighting at decrepit old Qualcomm Stadium simply went out in a close, tense four point game. The inexplicable timeout was reminiscent of Super Bowl XLVII’s outage — only with slightly less on the line for either side. That brief moment of darkness turned out to be a moment of clarity for the Aztecs however, and allowed them to game plan an 11 play, 75 yard go-ahead scoring drive that sealed a 20-17 victory and made the team an immediate Group of Five bid contender.

The outage overshadowed the much anticipated duel between star tailbacks Bryce Love and Rashaad Pennywho both lived up to the hype as they carried their respective teams offensively deep into the night. Given the conservative nature of both head coaches, there was little issue with running the ball often and playing stout defense between two good teams but it certainly made for a rather unexciting contest when all was said and done.

Cardinal quarterback Keller Chryst was largely ineffective and had his worst outing as a starter, finishing with just eight completions for an unremarkable 56 yards and the game-sealing interception with 48 seconds left. If not for Love running behind that bruising offensive line (184 yards and two scores), things could have been even worse for the one-time title dark horse.

As good as Love was though, his counterpart for the Aztecs was just as good in a second consecutive Pac-12 win. Penny wound up with 206 all-purpose yards and one touchdown, the bulk coming on 175 ground-churning rushing yards. Quarterback Christian Chapman was efficient to bring balance to the offense — 187 yards and the game-winning touchdown toss — and put SDSU firmly in the mix for the Group of Five bid at the end of the year with a pair of major victories.

Pumphrey breaks record, San Diego State breaks Houston’s offense in Las Vegas Bowl

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Donnel Pumphrey became the FBS all-time leading rusher and San Diego State earned a 34-10 triumph over Houston in a Las Vegas Bowl that will be remembered as one of the best wins in Aztec football history.

Though the Aztecs eventually ran away for the win, the first quarter played completely differently. Like a Houston rout, to be exact. Thanks to a Ty Cummings field goal and a Greg Ward, Jr., touchdown plunge, the Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead, limiting the Aztecs’ offense to four punts and three three-and-outs to open the game. Houston finished the frame with a 102-5 yardage advantage, limiting Pumphrey’s first seven carries to minus-1 yard.

The game after that, though. John Baron II chipped in two short field goals to get the Aztecs on the board, while the San Diego State defense limited Houston to just five total yards in the second quarter.

That domination continued in the third quarter as three consecutive Houston drives ended in Ward interceptions. The Cougars forced a punt after the first pick, but Pumphrey cashed in on the second with a 32-yard touchdown jaunt to put San Diego State on top 13-10 at the 3:14 mark of the third quarter, and Ron Smith stepped in front of a wide receiver screen and raced it 54 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 20-10 with 56 seconds left in the frame. Ward finished the day completing 25-of-34 passes for 229 yards with four interceptions while netting zero yards on 14 rushes and eight sacks. He was sacked three times on Houston’s next-to-last possession alone, including a fourth down that the Coogs’ coaches for some reason felt necessary to go for despite being deep in their own territory and trailing by 17 with just over three minutes remaining.

Pumphrey topped Ron Dayne‘s all-time record early in the fourth quarter, racing 15 yards around right tackle to become the first player in FBS history to top the 6,400 yard mark. Pumphrey finished the day with 19 carries for 115 yards and one touchdown, officially closing his record-breaking career with 1,059 carries for 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns spread over 53 games. He also became the only player in FBS history to record three consecutive seasons of 2,000 rushing/receiving yards. Dayne, as far as the NCAA is concerned, carried for 6,397 yards on 1,149 carries in 47 countable games. (Dayne, however, rushed for 7,125 yards when including three non-countable bowl games.)

After San Diego State turned away a desperation 4th-and-1 Ward rush at the Houston 31-yard line, the Aztecs put the game away with 8:58 to play as Christian Chapman (10-of-14 passing for 128 yards) hit Curtis Anderson III over the top for a 28-yard play-action touchdown pass, nudging the score to an out-of-reach 27-10. Juwan Washington punched in the capper on a 13-yard carry with 1:11 left to play. In the only downer of the day for the club, Rashaad Penny totaled only 10 yards on nine carries, leaving him five yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark to go with Pumphrey’s 2,133 yards this season.

The win pushed San Diego State to 11-3 on the year, the second consecutive season the Aztecs have won 11 games and the Mountain West championship, cementing SDSU’s status as the nation’s most underrated program. Houston’s loss dropped the Cougars to 9-4 on the year and 0-1 in the Major Applewhite era.

San Diego State runs past Wyoming for second straight Mountain West title

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They say revenge is a dish best served cold. San Diego State checked off both boxes on Saturday night.

The Aztecs captured their second straight Mountain West championship and avenged an earlier loss with a 27-24 win over Wyoming in freezing conditions up in Laramie.

The San Diego State ground game was clicking all night long in a game where it was difficult to get much of anything through the air. Star tailback Donnel Pumphrey finished with 110 yards and a touchdown, passing former Texas great Ricky Williams to become the second leading rusher in FBS history late in the third quarter. The senior trails only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne by 108 yards on the all-time list with a chance to top his mark later this month in what will likely be a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Pumphrey’s backup Rashaad Penny wasn’t too shabby either, picking up a team-high 117 yards on the ground and finding the end zone twice. It was a good thing both players were humming in the backfield as quarterback Christian Chapman managed only 85 yards on six completions.

The SDSU defense also came to play in one of their best performances in a while. They picked off Wyoming’s Josh Allen twice, recovered a fumble late in the second half and bottled up the prolific runner Brian Hill to the tune of just 93 yards.

The Cowboys made a run to close the gap to just a field goal in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite get over the hump for their second win in as many weeks over the Aztecs for a first ever Mountain West title.

Instead it was Rocky Long’s San Diego State squad that could lay claim to being the best in the conference this season for the second year in a row.