The San Diego State Aztecs defeated the Air Force Falcons 27-24 for the outright title of Mountain West champions. Majority of the game for the Aztecs was filled with mental mistakes an unrecovered fumbles, giving Rocky Long bad flashbacks to the non-conference portion of the schedule. But Rocky Long’s gritty Aztecs made it out of the second half with a victory, a trophy, and some t-shirts to show for it.
Christian Chapman showed grit and talent in his first game as starting QB. Going into this game everyone knew that senior quarterback Maxwell Smith was not going to suit up and freshman Chapman had to be the guy to open up the box for Donnel Pumphrey and Chase Price. Chapman came through with his arm and his mobility, effectively saving the season.
Chapman posted 203 yards with one touchdown, besting himself over all performances from Maxwell Smith this season. He rushed for 32 yards, including a crucial 13-yard run to convert a 3rd-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. Jemond Hazely caught most of his passes earning five receptions for 78 yards, finishing his last game ever at San Diego State.
The conference game still ran through Pumphrey as he hauled in 2 passes for 64 yards including one touchdown adding to his rushing yards total of 90. The running backs did their job in the power-rushing offense, as Price did much of the late game work with 51 yards, and though Rashaad Penny did not return another touchdown he scored one more time on the ground with a 28-yard run.
The Aztecs weren’t able to fully stop the triple-option giving up a season high of 305 yards of rushing, especially Jacobi Owens (156 rush yards) and Timothy McVey (48 yards and 3 touchdowns). The run defense was not solid for the red and black, but the secondary made up for it. The Aztecs defense gave up only 35 yards of passing, 29 of those came late as a result of prevent defense on the final drive of the game. The Aztecs just happened to stop the Falcons at the right time. Back-to-back three-and-outs in the 4th quarter was all it took for San Diego State to lock up the Mountain West.
Donny Hageman redeemed himself in championship game after missing the game-winning field goal against Navy in last year’s 16-17 loss in the Poinsettia Bowl. The field goal with 5:10 to go proved to be the difference as both Air Force and San Diego State defenses stayed stout late in the game.
Despite playing in front of a meager crowd of 20,959, the Aztecs faithful were believers. San Diegans saw a championship team win 10 games and their 20th championship. The bright spot for the future? Christian Chapman and Donnel Pumphrey leading the same Rocky Long-coached Aztecs next year.