On the back of Donnel Pumphrey’s record-breaking night, the San Diego State Aztecs survive 45-40 to a formidable California Golden Bears team that didn’t miss a beat losing QB Jared Goff to the NFL.
Though the Aztecs, a 6-point favorite, still played the underdog card.
It’s easy to see why they were a favorite. Heisman-hopeful Pumphrey was already closing in on Marshall Faulk’s all-time rushing record and the Golden Bears can’t stop the run. Pumphrey broke Faulk’s record in the second half and ended the night with 281 yards on 29 carries and 3 touchdowns.
The tempo of the game swayed in San Diego State’s favor. The defense made a strong showing keeping the game scoreless through most of the first quarter and unsung running back Rashaad Penny, score the game’s first touchdown.
But Texas Tech transfer, Davis Webb exposed the secondary and answered the next three consecutive SDSU touchdowns with scoring passes of 33, 49, and 21. Webb finished the night with an additional 59-yard touchdown pass, bringing him to a career high of 4 touchdowns. On every Webb touchdown pass San Diego State defensive backs were plainly burned on one-on-one coverage.
San Diego State prides itself in their defense as the bread and butter, but Davis Webb looked like a hot, serrated knife.
However, the gritty little Aztecs kept on pace with the Golden Bears never giving up the lead and eventually went into the half with a comfortable 10-point lead, 31-21.
But it was Pumphrey’s second half to shine. On the second Aztec possession of the 3rd quarter, Pumphrey broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run on a 8-man in the box front. After that run it was clear that barring injury or being pulled by Coach Long, Pumphrey will break a record in the 4th quarter. Around the 6:00 minute mark, Donnel Pumphrey became the all-time leader in rushing at San Diego State, surpassing NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk.
Despite the individual accolades of Pumphrey, it took all three phases of San Diego State football to overcome their own mistakes (1 lost fumble, 1 interception, 14 penalties for 105 yards) and Cal’s Bear Raid offense.
Special Teams Player of the Year Rashaad Penny took another kickoff return to the house, clearly out maneuvering, breaking ankles. Making him the all-time leader in return touchdowns at San Diego State.
The San Diego State defense, despite being burned by the long ball, intercepted Webb 3 times, and Ronley Lakalaka returned one for a touchdown. The Aztecs made 21 points off turnovers against Cal’s 3 points off turnovers. Defensive Player of the Year Damontae Kazee sealed the game with an interception in the winding minute of the fourth quarter.
This game isn’t a program definer. This Cal team made some costly drops and mistakes that could’ve turned the tide in their favor, and Cal might not be competitive during Pac-12 play. The Aztecs haven’t arrived. However, this game just might be a program changer for those in the locker room especially because San Diego State and the Mountain West conference have not done well against Power 5 schools.
Looking ahead, San Diego State takes on Group of 5 opponents Northern Illinois and South Alabama. Tough schools in the eyes of San Diego State coaches, but to casual fans — and maybe some here on MWConnection — the schedule from here on favors San Diego State to go at it with Boise State in the Mountain West Championship Game.