AZTECS BEAT CAL! Road to Destiny Paved with Bricks of Sunshine


THEY DID IT. San Diego State won a spellbinding, historic, classic Aztecs thriller over Cal that did NOT end in classic Aztecs tragedy. What was achieved:

Signature Win against a Power Five opponent UNLOCKED

SDSU has had some great wins under Rocky Long but the most recent win against a BCS/Power Five school was over the WSU Cougars back in 2011, Long’s first year as head coach. Rock and the program finally cleared that level.

Donnel Pumphrey has best game of his life, Marshall Faulk’s SDSU career rushing record BROKEN

Pumphrey was absolutely on fire, ripping off multiple long runs on untouched cutback sprints for 279 yards rushing and 3 TDs. D.J. cemented his place in Aztecs lore and pushed his team to a ginormous W.

Survived a monster game from Davis Webb, TALL MOTHERFUCKER

Webb’s line: 41-72 for 522 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs. 72 PASS ATTEMPTS! Those are 1991 Ty Detmer killing the Aztecs kind of numbers (Detmer in the 1991 52-52 tie: 31-54, 599 yards, 6 TDs). That’s crazy.

12-game win streak ROLLS ON

Despite a final whistle at 2:38 AM EDT, the quality win, continued streak and Pumphrey’s record-breaking career day puts the Aztecs on the national radar. The dream of a New Year’s Six bowl percolates.

I experienced this milestone at home while live tweeting and having a nervous breakdown, so here’s a few of the key plays presented in appropriately scattershot fashion:

Northern Illinois’ blowout loss at South Florida bled over into the 7:35 PM Aztecs-Cal kickoff. CBS Sports livestreamed the game online before the national broadcast switched over a couple of plays in. A great crowd that looked and sounded like real college football greeted the late-night national audience.

SDSU held Cal to two yards and a 3 and out on their first drive, but Cal receivers got behind the Aztecs secondary on their next two possessions. Webb missed a couple of open targets and a 55-yard completion was called back on a hold. State was fortunate to keep it at 0-0 nine minutes into the game. Then the fireworks started.

Senior linebacker Randy Ricks stripped a receiver and the Aztecs recovered at the Cal 25. The next play Chapman sold a run, the Bears bit hard and Rashaad Penny was very open.

CBS Sports Network
CBS Sports Network

Jared Goff’s tall-ass replacement started slinging it around the yard. Webb hit a 35-yard pass on 3rd down, then dropped a 33-yard touchdown in the blind corner. Which meant they had to kick off.

Pac-12 Networks/CBS Sports Network
Pac-12 Networks/CBS Sports Network

When Penny caught the kick at his shoulder three yards deep and brought it out I thought: oh shit. He ran out of a leg tackle at the 8, escaped trash at the 12, cut it back at the 25 and was GONE baby gone.


Webb then resumed carving up the Aztecs defensive backs, hitting a 49-yard TD pass to tie it up at 14-all. SDSU got the ball back and Pumphrey rushed for 33 on 2nd down. Four plays later, D.J. made a one-cut move that left defenders grasping and took it another 33 to the house.


The relentless sombitch Webb promptly drove the Bears back down and tied the score at 21-all.

The Aztecs burned almost five minutes on the ensuing drive but punted back to Cal, pinning them at the 12. On the next play SDSU brought a complex blitz, Calvin Munson fired at the quarterback and forced a panic toss. LB Ronley Lakalaka dropped into coverage and snagged the INT for his first career score.

Lord John Baron II of House Temecula added a field goal and the Aztecs took a 31-21 lead into halftime.

The Aztecs secondary bent, a lot, but were still making plays. Early second half, Cal drove down to the Aztecs 23. Webb lobbed a 3rd down pass into the end zone and corner Derek Babiash made a Richard Sherman-esque play on the ball.

State took over at the 20. Pumphrey took a handoff and ran for 15 yards. He rushed again for 8. I typed out a tweet Donnel is going to bust one but erased it before sending, worrying it was a low-level jinx. Next play:

Donnel 57

That was the whole drive: Three Pumphrey runs for 80 yards. The lead was up to 17! Not for goddamn long.

Aztecs went three and out before a Cal field goal made it 38-31. It was at this point—the 4th quarter—that things started getting Aztecy.

The defense held Cal to a field goal. SDSU got the ball back with a four point lead, and…

Ghosts of past come-from-ahead Aztecs tragedies began lurking over all our shoulders. The defenders in red and black ignored the foreboding, forcing Cal into a 4th down decision they went for and didn’t convert!

The teams traded punts, with another bullet narrowly dodged.

SDSU had the ball with six minutes left. Pumphrey was closing in on Marshall’s record and having the game of his life. They fed him the rock.

One play later:

Three plays later:





Yes, that’s the second time I misspelled it “Pumprhey.” I was excited!

Back to an 11 point lead with 2:47 left. Gut-wrench hang on by fingernails time.

With the lead back to four, that failed conversion try loomed large. Cal completed a shovel pass in traffic and the Tecs stuffed it.

Bad coverage of the onside kick gave Cal a shot to win. Darkness warshed over the dude, me.

A horrible moment was coming. I wasn’t resigned to it. I feared it like a wild animal crouching in the dark.

Then Damontae Kazee made maybe the most clutch defensive play I’ve ever seen in Aztecs football. He read the quarterback, jumped the route, tipped the ball to himself and pulled in the game-clinching INT.


Defending conference champs. 12 straight wins. All-time rushing leader. Signature win over a legit Power Five opponent.

These are really the Aztecs, and this is getting really good.

Author: lemonverbena

Californian/Washingtonian, co-editor of Kabeer Thirty.


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