Rocky Long

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CFT Previews: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

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WHO: Army (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-2)
WHAT: The 15th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
THE SKINNY: If you like running games, the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is for you this year. San Diego State rides into the bowl season with one of the nation’s top rushers in Rashaad Penny. On the other side of the field is Army’s signature option running game, led by quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw. Expect plenty of rushing yardage in this one.

Army is in a postseason bowl game for the second year in a row for the first time since 1984 and 1985. It’s been a long time coming for the Knights, who also look to reach the 10-win total for the first time since 1996. Jeff Monken has done a terrific job turning things around for the program, including having won back-to-back Army-Navy Games and securing the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since the mid-1990s.

The Aztecs certainly had a great year as well, but San Diego State fell short of being able to play for the Mountain West Conference championship. Despite a Heisman-worthy season from Penny and a signature win over Bryce Love and Stanford, San Diego State is hoping to cap another otherwise successful season under Rocky Long with a shot at finishing in the AP top 25 for the second season in a row. San Diego State can also win 11 games in a season for a third straight season, which would be a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the stability this program has achieved.

Army will be more likely to slowly pile up the offensive yardage, but do not be shocked if Penny breaks free for some quick long gains.

THE PICK: San Diego State 34, Army 28

San Diego State extends Rocky Long’s contract through 2021

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Coming off a second straight 11-3 season, San Diego State has rewarded head football coach Rocky Long with a contract extension. The school announced a new contract that tacks on five additional seasons to the existing contract. Long is now under contract through the end of the 2021 season.

Long was under contract through the end of the upcoming 2017 season, so the contract extension provides a little more job security for Long and enables to him to show some stability for the future of the program.

Long replaced former San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke as the head coach of the Aztecs at the end of the 2010 season after Hoke was hired by Michigan. Under Long, San Diego State has gone 54-26 with six straight winning seasons. During that run, San Diego State has won back-to-back Mountain West Conference championships the past two seasons and gone 3-3 in bowl games. Long also coached San Diego State to a conference crown in his first season on the job, in 2011. San Diego State has ended each of the past two seasons with bowl victories against a team from the American Athletic Conference (Cincinnati in the 2015 Hawaii Bowl and Houston in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl).

San Diego State grounds Navy in first half of the Poinsettia Bowl

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The Navy Midshipmen claim the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense. The team’s triple option attack averages 345.1 rushing yards per game.

Ken Niumatalolo‘s squad is well behind its average after the San Diego Aztecs built a 13-7 lead in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

Through two quarters of play, the Midshipmen only managed 74 rushing yards and 82 total yards of offense. San Diego State has done a good job dictating which ball carrier Navy chooses to run the football.

“I don’t think we’re stopping the run,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long told ESPN as he headed to the locker room for halftime. “I think we’re deciding who is going to get it. They got some good plays off the pitch that we didn’t support very well. We have a long way to go. It’s the type of game we thought it was going to be.”

San Diego State decided to keep the ball out of the hands of Navy’s dynamic quarterback, Keenan Reynolds. Long’s defense held Reynolds, who leads all quarterbacks with 1,182 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, to minus-five rushing yards in the first half.

Over half of Navy’s yardage (42 yards) came on the team’s first drive, which resulted in a touchdown. The Middies only gained 32 yards after that point.

The Aztecs have only been marginally better on offense.

Donnel Pumphrey, the nation’s third-leading rusher, managed 66 yards on 11 carries, while quarterback Quinn Kaehler was terribly inaccurate. San Diego State’s signal-caller was only 5-of-11 passing for 56 yards and an interception.

The difference in the contest was a poor pitch from Reynolds that resulted in a fumble San Diego State recovered. Five plays and 39 yards later, The Aztecs scored their only touchdown of the first half courtesy of five-yard run by Pumphrey.

Long said during his interview that he expects both teams to establish the run in the second half. Neither have been effective dropping back to pass. Navy, in particular, will likely sprinkle in some new wrinkles in the second half, while San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense should continue to move and shift to present problems for the Midshipmen.

Rocky Long wishes college football had preseason games

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The NFL preseason kicked off last week and will continue through the rest of the month. For most of August, it will be the only way football-starved fans will be able to enjoy the sport until the college games kick off at the end of the month (we’re almost there, I promise). If San Diego State head coach Rocky Long had things his way, there would be a college football preseason as well.

“I wish we had an exhibition season like the NFL does,” Long said this weekend, according to Mountain West Connection on SB Nation. “I’d like to play a game or two against somebody else and then you’ve got a better feel for your team.”

Because college football does not have a preseason, a number of programs will schedule games early in the season against bottom feeders from various conferences or dip their toes in the FCS waters, which can prove dangerous at times. With the new focus on strength of schedule and with the possible cutting back by power conference schools scheduling programs from outside the other power conferences, perhaps the preseason idea could gain some traction.

The idea is not entirely new in concept. Playing the equivalent of preseason games in the spring has been thrown around before as well as the mini preseason concept. College basketball allows for preseason games, but football has not crossed that line. Would scrimmages against other schools in the state, be they FBS vs. FBS or FBS vs. FCS match-ups be too much to tack on to the rigors of a full 12-game regular season at the college level? In a changing landscape for the sport, maybe anything is possible.

San Diego State opens the 2014 season at home on August 30 against Northern Arizona.

San Diego State’s Adam Muema slices and dices Buffalo for Potato Bowl win

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San Diego State running back Adam Muema was  a one-man wrecking crew that even Buffalo’s Khalil Mack could not slow down. Muema rushed for  229 yards and three touchdowns to power the Aztecs over Buffalo for a 49-24 victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Muema scored on a short touchdown run early in the second quarter to give San Diego State a 14-0 lead on the blue turf in Boise. Before the game was over he would add touchdown runs of 8 and 30 yards as the Aztecs were in firm control of Buffalo. San Diego State piled up 461 yards of offense and the defense held the Bulls to 265 total offensive yards. San Diego State thrived on third down, converting half of their 14 attempts while the defense forced three turnovers by Buffalo’s offense.

Buffalo got as close as 14-10 in the second quarter but the Aztecs pulled away with a pair of touchdowns in the final couple of minutes of the first half. After capping a five-play touchdown drive with just over a minute in the half, San Diego State intercepted a pass from Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata to set up a drive from the 25-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage Dylan Denso hauled in a pass from Quinn Kaehler for a touchdown and a 28-10 lead at the half. San Diego State outscored the Bulls 21-14 in the second half.

Up 49-24 with the football and just 30 seconds to play in the game, head coach Rocky Long and San Diego State pulled a highly questionable deep pass down the left sideline out of nowhere. The pass fell incomplete, but the play was totally unnecessary and could have left some bitterness on the field. Fortunately San Diego State took a knee on the next play with Buffalo opting not to use any of their remaining timeouts.

San Diego State will have some challenges coming their way in 2014. The Aztecs will play road games at North Carolina and Oregon State in non-conference play. The conference schedule will also send San Diego State on the road to play Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State. The good news for the Aztecs is they will be playing a Fresno State team in roster transition and a Boise State program moving on from the Chris Petersen era. San Diego State loses 10 seniors who started this bowl game, but the Mountain West Conference could be up for grabs for any team that can find a way to get on track early on.

Buffalo will also have 10 seniors to replace in their starting line-up next season. The Bulls may have a bit more of a difficult time continuing the level of success they had this season in 2014, but the MAC can be anyone’s conference to win most years. Buffalo only has two non-conference games scheduled as of now, on the road at army and at home against Big 12 champion Baylor.

Buffalo’s search for the first bowl win in program history will have to wait at least one more year.