Well! That’s a relief. The San Diego State football Aztecs, reeling from two straight losses after starting the season 6 and 0, went to Honolulu and beat Hawai’i 28-7. Coupled with Fresno State’s surprising loss at home to UNLV, the win cracks open a can of hope for a return to the Mountain West championship game.
This tweet from the official SDSU Football account is a good representation of the game: Rashaad Penny running to daylight past a handful of disinterested fans and thousands of empty Aloha Stadium seats.
A solid, necessary win, one that will be most remembered for That Run.
2nd and 6, UH 42
PENNY, Rashaad rush for 12 yards to the UH30, 1ST DOWN SDSU
San Diego State was up 14-0 in the 2nd quarter. The run didn’t lead to much: two Juwan Washington runs for -2, a Chapman sack and a punt. But with the rest of college football put to bed, this was the run of the day.
I mean god Damn, how strong do you have to be to drag a guy like that? It’s a testament to power and sheer will, to a really impressive grip by the defender, and the tensile strength of Penny’s undershirt. In olden times his whole jersey probably would’ve torn away like Earl Campbell’s.
Penny finished with a career-high 253 rushing yards, helped by slightly-improved offensive line play and bad Hawai’i defense. His 63-yard run early in the 4th was the home run ball that put the game out of reach.
The junior quarterback had another workmanlike game-manager game, frequently scrambling for dear life behind shaky protection, a continuing theme. Chapman finished 5 of 11 for 83 yards, one TD and his first INT in a long while. Small potatoes, and not quite what our co-editor hoped for when he advocated for an increased emphasis on the forward pass.
Still, when you rush for 334 yards, you don’t need to pass much. Chapman made enough good throws to win the game. He was 1 for 4 in the 2nd half (a 30 yard completion to David Wells that should’ve been ruled a touchdown), and his only pass attempt in the 4th quarter was intercepted. It didn’t matter.
Tune in, turn on, where is the frickin’ broadcast
Quite a few human persons tuned in at 8:30 Pacific (5:30 Hawai’i time) only to find the game not displayed on their televisions. The apparent human error was fixed shortly after the previous game ended on ESPN2 and someone finally flipped the ON switch.
Ron Howard voice: They could do something about it.
Defense. Hawai’i isn’t as good as Boise and Fresno, both of whom pushed the Aztecs around, but the Rainbow Warriors were a proud program playing at home. UH running back Diocemy Saint Juste entered Saturday at 5th in the nation with 1,094 rushing yards, averaging 156 yards per game. SDSU held him to 40 yards on 17 carries.
Obviously good: Penny and the running game, back on track in a big way.
Penalties. A roughing the kicker penalty gave Hawai’i a first down on a punt deep in their own territory and a late hit out of bounds kept that drive alive, leading to the ‘Bows only touchdown just before the half. SDSU finished with eight accepted penalties, matching their average on the year. Clean it up fellas.
Fresno State lost to UNLV in Fresno as +22.5 point favorites, one week after throttling SDSU. Houston beat previously-undefeated South Florida. A bunch of other ranked teams lost. All of which would have mattered greatly if the Aztecs hadn’t gotten the shit kicked out of them the previous two weeks. Running the table is exceedingly difficult for any team. But it’s hard to not look back and think “what if” when SDSU survived the early crucible of ASU, Stanford, Air Force and Northern Illinois to set up a dream run, only for our dumb conference rivals to wreck it. A dark feeling, regret.
Fresno needs to lose two more games to give the Tecs a renewed shot at a three-peat, and they can. San Diego State can certainly win out. Will they?
At San José State, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU. Count it.