There was something of a surreal feel to this afternoon’s San Diego State football game. Maybe it’s that we’re not used to seeing the Aztecs play in broad daylight in their home blacks. Maybe it was the stagnant midafternoon sizzle of this stupid late November heat wave. Maybe it was the smallish turnout for a Black Friday game with nothing really on the line.
It was probably all of those things, actually.
In sum, they created the college football version of a Thanksgiving food coma. Consider it a mildly uncomfortable, lethargic yet unmistakably pleasant end to what has been a delightful feast of a regular season.
SDSU, aided by a pretty bad New Mexico team, made sure of the pleasant outcome, as the Aztecs handled the Lobos 35-10 on the strength of another monster Rashaad Penny performance and a nearly flawless defensive performance.
Since I’m not some dipshit Doak Walker Award voter, let me begin by giving Penny his due.
On Thanksgiving, the eve of his Senior Day game, Penny posted this:
Penny seems like a good dude and that’s been a big part of why he has been so easy to root for during his career here. The other reason for his popularity is that he absolutely wrecks fools on the regular. Friday was New Mexico’s turn to get wrecked, as Penny went off for 203 yards on 22 carries.
Here’s the first time he touched the ball on offense.
Here’s his last carry of the first half.
And here’s the run that blew the game open.
Penny now has 2,027 yards on the season, leaving him just 106 yards shy of Donnel Pumphrey’s single season SDSU record, with a bowl game still to play. More importantly, his lead over Stanford’s Bryce Love for the FBS rushing title is now at 304 yards, though Love still has two or three games left to play, depending on the results of the Apple Cup.
Of course, the Doak voters would be quick to point out that Saquon Barkley is only 951 yards behind Penny, so it’s pretty much a statistical dead heat. They definitely have a point there.
Oh yeah, then there was that.
Isn’t it astounding how desensitized this incredible running back dynasty of Pumphrey and Penny have made us to cartoonish dominance on the ground? There were several times today where Penny would bust off a 7 or 8 yard scamper and the crowd would audibly groan because he didn’t take it to the cabanas. Even 203 yards doesn’t feel like a big deal, probably because Penny has done that now in four straight games.
Thanks for turning us into insufferable spoiled brats, Rashaad. We’re going to miss you a lot.
Speaking of spoiled, SDSU is now 10-2, giving the Aztecs double-digit wins in three consecutive years for the first time in the history of the program. That never happened in the precious 1970s. Never happened under Don Coryell. It never even happened back the Aztecs were playing against tiny denominational colleges and literal teams of sailors from US Navy battleships.
That doesn’t make SDSU’s exclusion from next week’s conference championship game any easier to swallow, but we should step back and appreciate what a consistently good program this has become under Rocky Long. Pardon my radioactive hot take, but it is my opinion that Long should continue to coach the San Diego State Aztecs football team.
The Aztecs defense, after looking pretty leaky — especially in the secondary — against Nevada, righted the ship nicely and thoroughly smothered the Lobos.
At one point in the third quarter Friday, SDSU had 16 first downs while New Mexico had 3. Bob Davie’s run oriented offense gained only 82 yards on 2.4 yards per carry. The Aztecs were one Quest Truxton punt muff (leading to a cheap field goal) and one long passing TD shy of pitching the shutout.
Freshman Tariq Thompson had two interceptions while sophomore LB Kyahva Tezino had 14 tackles. It may be senior day, but I believe that children are our future.
One final encore
I have no idea where SDSU is going bowling, and I don’t think anyone does right now.
I’m hopeful it won’t be in one of the four Mountain West Conference’s flotsam consolation bowls against Group of Five randos. The MWC may have two bowl eligible teams to place outside of these games, and you would think the Aztecs — 10-2, receiving votes and with Rashaad Fucking Penny in the backfield — would be the easiest team to shop to ESPN for a mid-tier game in need to a team.
But whatever. Worst case scenario is the we get to watch Rashaad Penny run one last time. I’m content to be thankful for that.