Early on, the Cougars controlled the pace and finished a 10-play drive with a field goal. This drive was followed by a 2 yard touchdown by QB Greg Ward Jr. that put the Cougars ahead 10-0. Meanwhile, the Aztecs were unable to produce any rhythm on the offensive end. Specifically, the No. 2 ranked rushing defense limited the Aztecs to -7 rushing yards and only five total yards in the first quarter.
After a very quiet start, star running back Donnel Pumphrey started to put together some successful runs in the second. Pumphrey broke through the defense and ran for 30 yards during an 8-play drive that resulted in a San Diego State field goal.
The momentum started to shift when Ward Jr. was sacked for an 8-yard loss on 3rd and 9 with 2:07 to go in the second quarter. Following several successful runs by Rashaad Penny and Pumphrey, the Aztecs converted another field goal and trailed 10-6 at halftime.
They say that defense leads to offense, and the Aztecs capitalized on three interceptions in the third quarter alone. Specifically, Calvin Munson’s interception with 5:08 in the third quarter led to a 32-yard rushing touchdown by Pumphrey. In addition, another turning point in the game came when Ron Smith intercepted Ward Jr. for a pick-six that gave the Aztecs a 20-10 lead.
On 1st and 10 with 12:26 in the fourth quarter, Aztecs’ running back Donnel Pumphrey ran for 15 yards, surpassing Ron Dayne (6,397 yards) to become the all-time FBS leading rushing yards with 4,405 yards. He also became the first FBS player to have 5,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.
Overall, the Aztecs outscored the Cougars 34-0 following a two-yard touchdown by the Cougars with 1:22 in the first quarter. The Aztecs defense forced several key sacks and caused Ward Jr. to throw three interceptions with zero touchdowns.
Player of the game:
Playing in his hometown, in front of his closest friends and family, Donnel Pumphrey did not disappoint. The undersized running back defied all odds and ran for 115 yards on 19 carries against a dominant Cougars defense. Pumphrey finished the season with 2,133 yards and the title as the all-time FBS rushing yards leader.