CFN Take: SDSU Throws Past Air Force
2014 San Diego State Aztecs ...
Head Coach: Rocky Long
Nov. 21 at San Diego State 30, Air Force 14
Aug. 30 Northern Arizona
Sep. 6 at North Carolina L 21-27
Sep. 13 OPEN DATE
Sep. 20 at Oregon State L 28-7
Sep. 27 UNLV W 34-17
Oct. 4 at Fresno State L 24-13
Oct. 11 at New Mexico W 24-14
Oct. 18 Hawaii W 20-10
Oct. 25 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 at Nevada L 30-14
Nov. 8 Idaho W 35-21
Nov. 15 at Boise State L 38-29
Nov. 22 Air Force W 30-14
Nov. 29 San Jose State
And You Care Because … San Diego State got up fast with a 13-0 lead on a 14-yard Adam Roberts touchdown catch and two of Donny Hageman’s three field goals, but Air Force took the lead going into halftime with Garrett Griffin taking a Kale Pearson pass 74 yards for a score, and D.J. Johnson running one yard for a touchdown. The Aztecs scored 17 unanswered points with Donnel Pumphrey running for a 12-yard score and Calvin Munson taking an interception 56 yards to put the game away. Air Force turned it over four times.
What Else? San Diego State QB Quinn Kaehler completed 17-of-30 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Air Force QB Kale Pearson completed 10-of-22 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran 14 times for a team-high 59 yards
- San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 27 times for 131 yards and a score
- Time of possession: San Diego State 35:16 – Air Force 24:03
Game Rating: C-
Nov. 15 at Boise State 38, San Diego State 29
And You Care Because … Boise State spotted San Diego State the first 20 points as Donnel Pumphrey ran for a 32-yard score and Donny Hageman kicked two of his three field goals, and then it was all Broncos. Jay Ajayi ran for scores from five, three and ten yards out, and Grant Hedrick threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Sperbeck and ran for a 13-yard score, but the Aztecs stayed in it with a Pumphrey 34-yard scoring run midway through the fourth. Hedrick’s run put it away in the final minutes.
What Else? Boise State RB Jay Ajayi ran 31 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns, and he caught four passes for 25 yards
- San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 24 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and ran three times for 28 yards
- San Diego State QB Quinn Kaehler completed 17-of-29 passes for 173 yards and a score with a pick
- Boise State QB Grant Hedrick completed 19-of-28 passes for 187 yards and a score with an interception, and ran 11 times for 41 yards and a score
Game Rating: B
Nov. 8 at San Diego 35, Idaho 21
And You Care Because … Ezell Ruffin started out the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown catch and ended it with a 28-yard score as San Diego State got through a rough first half to take over in the second. Quinn Kaehler threw three touchdown passes, including a 58-yarder to Eric Judge. Idaho got a 13-yard Chad Chalich touchdown run and a 51-yard scoring play to Joshua McCain to pull within seven, but Ruffin’s second score was enough.
What Else? San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 26 times for 142 yards and a score
- Idaho WR Joshua McCain caught seven passes for 101 yards and a score
- San Diego State QB Quinn Kaehler completed 14-of-22 passes for 249 yards and a score
- Idaho RB Elijhaa Penny ran 22 times for 90 yards and a score
Game Rating: B-
Nov. 1 at Nevada 30, San Diego State 14
And You Care Because … Down 14-13 after SDSU scored on a one-yard Chase Price run and a 21-yard Jemond Hazely catch, Nevada took control in the second half with 20 unanswered points on two of Brent Zuzo’s three field goals, and with a 43-yard James Butler touchdown run. Don Jackson put a capper on it with a one-yard touchdown run late. The Aztecs turned the ball over three times and struggled to keep the chains moving.
What Else? Nevada RB Don Jackson ran 20 times for 124 yards and a touchdown, and James Butler ran 15 times for 103 yards and a score
- San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 13 times for 85 yards
- Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 10-of-24 passes for 109 yards and a score with a pick
- Total yards: Nevada 338 – San Diego State 324
Game Rating: C+
Oct. 18 at San Diego State 20, Hawaii 10
And You Care Because … Hawaii came up with the play of the game on a brilliant Hail Mary to Marcus Kemp to end the first half, but that was about it for the offense. San Diego State grinded out a big day from Donnel Pumphrey getting a ten-yard touchdown run early, and Lloyd Mills caught a 26-yard touchdown catch late in the third. The Hawaii offense could only managed a 25-yard Tyler Hadden field goal outside of the one big play.
What Else? San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 25 times for 182 yards and a score
- Hawaii QB Ikaika Woolsey completed 17-of-31 passes for 174 yards and a score with two picks
- San Diego State QB Quinn Kaehler completed 13-of-24 passes for 174 yards and a score
- Total yards: San Diego State 457 – Hawaii 264
Game Rating: D+
Oct. 10 San Diego State 24, at New Mexico 14
And You Care Because … Donnel Pumphrey went off, running for 246 yards with a 49-yard scoring run in the second quarter and a 93-yard dash late in the third to help San Diego State overcome a mistake-filled day for the win. Lamar Jordan connected with Carlos Wiggins for a 45-yard touchdown, and Teriyon Gipson ran for a one-yard score to keep New Mexico in the game, but it was Pumphrey’s run, and the Aztec defense, that put the clamps down over the last 20 minutes.
What Else? San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 20 times for 246 yards and two scores, and Chase Price ran 17 times for 141 yards and a score.
- New Mexico QB Lamar Jordan completed 8-of-18 passes for 97 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and he led the team with 52 yards on six carries.
- San Diego State used three quarterbacks, and they were all bad combining to complete 5-of-17 passes for 73 yards and two interceptions
- San Diego State: 4 turnovers and ten penalties for 102 yards – New Mexico: one turnover and six penalties for 57 yards
Game Rating: C
Oct. 3 at Fresno State 24, San Diego State 13
And You Care Because … Fresno State capitalized off of two key takeaways and pulled away late with Marteze Waller running for a five-yard score to keep down the struggling Aztecs. The Bulldogs got up 10-0 helped by a one-yard Brandon Connette touchdown run, and SDSU was only able to answer with two Donny Hageman field goals before the O finally got into the end zone early in the fourth on a five-yard Adam Robert touchdown run to pull within four. Fresno State held on over the final ten minutes.
What Else? Fresno State defense? Problems? Total yards: Fresno State 315 – San Diego State 270
- San Diego State QB Nick Bawden completed 9-of-24 passes for 84 yards and a score with two picks
- Fresno State QB Brian Burrell completed 14-of-28 passes for 143 yards and a pick
- San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 24 times for 94 yards
Game Rating: B-
Sept. 27 at San Diego State 34, UNLV 17
And You Care Because … Down 10-7 after Devonte Boyd caught a 44-yard touchdown pass to put UNLV ahead, San Diego State scored 24 straight points helped by three short touchdown runs from Donnel Pumphrey to go along with the 710yard scoring dash he cranked out in the first quarter. UNLV finally got back on the board with a two-yard Blake Decker run, but 14 points is as close as it got with SDSU adding on Donny Hageman’s second field goal of the fourth quarter.
What Else? San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 22 times for 167 yards and four scores, and he missed on his one pass attempt
- UNLV QB Blake Decker completed 18-of-31 passes for 346 yards and a score with two picks
- Total yards: San Diego State 466 – UNLV 455
- Average yards per carry: SDSU 6 – UNLV 2.9
Game Rating: C
Sept. 20 at Oregon State 28, San Diego State 7
And You Care Because … San Diego State scored first on a two-yard Donnel Pumphrey touchdown run, but it was all Oregon State the rest of the way with Terron Ward and Storm Woods each running for two scores. The Beaver defense held San Diego State to 215 yards and shut down the Aztec O after the early scoring drive.
What Else? Oregon State QB Sean Mannion completed 24-of-31 passes for 275 yards and a pick
- San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 17 times for 80 yards and a score and caught two passes for 14 yards
- Oregon State RB Storm Woods ran 11 times for 52 yards and two scores, and Terron Ward ran 15 times for 50 yards and two touchdowns.
- Time of possession: Oregon State 35:27 – San Diego State 24:33
Game Rating: C
Sept. 6 at North Carolina 31, San Diego State 27
And You Care Because … In a terrific game, North Carolina came up with an interception from Tim Scott in the end zone to finally secure the win and stop a final San Diego State rally. Brian Walker started off the scoring the Tar Heels with the first of his two interceptions, taking his first 100 yards for a touchdown, but San Diego State rallied back with 21 straight points on two Donnel Pumphrey touchdown runs and a 56-yard score from Eric Judge. The two traded scores, but down ten, the Tar Heels outscored the Aztecs 17-3 with Mack Hollins scoring on a 91-yard pass play and Elijah Hood giving UNC the lead for good on a two-yard run. A Nick Weller 23-yard field goal put the Tar Heels up by four, forcing SDSU to go for the end zone in the final moments.
What Else? North Carolina QB Marquise Williams completed 20-of-29 passes for 255 yards and two scores, and led the team with 63 rushing yards on 12 carries.
- SDSU RB Donnel Pumphrey ran 17 times for 100 yards and two scores.
- SDSU QB Quinn Kaehler completed 23-of-39 passes for 341 yards and a score with three picks.
- The Aztecs owned the time of possession, keeping the ball for 37:26 to 22:34.
Game Rating: A
Aug. 30 at San Diego State 38, Northern Arizona 7
And You Care Because … Donnel Pumphrey ran for two one-yard scores and Robert Craighead caught a two-yard touchdown pass on the way to a 24-0 first half lead. The second Pumphrey score in the third put it away. Lloyd Mills added a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. Pumphrey ran for 111 yards on 19 carries with the two scores. Quinn Kaehler spread around 18-of-29 passes for 205 yards and a score with a pick.
Game Rating: D+
As it turned out, Rocky Long was the dead-on right hire.
Long seemed like a curious call after Brady Hoke left San Diego State, but three years in, it’s almost impossible to ask for much more than three straight bowl appearance and eight or more wins in each of the three years. It’s the cliché; is it harder to get good or stay good? Long has been able to maintain what Hoke rebuilt.
For years, San Diego State was the proverbial “Why can’t this team win?” program on a yearly basis. There weren’t any winning seasons from 1998 to 2009. No bowl games, and nothing in the way of success outside of a decent 6-6 2003 campaign, but Hoke was one of the rising young head coaches, and he got the ball rolling. Long has done the job to make the program his while continuing the success.
Part of the key is that Long isn’t a rising young coach. Hoke was always destined to make the next big career move up the ladder, but Long turned 64 this season, and as it turns out, San Diego isn’t that bad a spot to live and work, and also, yeah, you can win football games there.
While the best era of San Diego State football came in the 1970s, this is currently one of the better runs in the program’s history with four straight bowl appearances and a great chance at a fifth, even though there’s lots of turnover and lots of work to do on both sides of the ball. Long’s forte is being able to come up with sound, steady teams, and while New Mexico got bored of consistent success and launched Long in 2008 after one down year – how has that turned out for the Lobos? – it’s working in San Diego.
Six starters are back on offense, with three of them up front to pave the way for a good group of running backs. There’s enough returning for the passing game to be solid, and while the defense needs to regroup with just four starters back, the return of LB Jake Fely and Sam Meredith from injury, and the addition of JUCO transfer lineman Christian Heyward, should keep things from crashing.
Is there a chance for a second Mountain West title in three years? Probably not considering Boise State is so strong and Fresno State, Utah State, and Nevada are all going to be players, but eight or more wins and a bowl game wouldn’t be bad again.
What to watch for on offense: The balance will shift back a bit more to the running game. Rocky Long is known for his tough, powerful running games and backs who put up big numbers – Adam Muema cranked out 1,244 yards and 15 touchdowns last season before his ill-fated decision to turn pro early – but the passing game was the star more often than not last season. The ground attack, while effective, averaged 167 yards per game, while Quinn Kaehler and the passing game put up over 3,000 yards. It’ll be more of the same offensively, but with a big back in redshirt freshman Marcus Stamps, and the do-it-all ability of Donnel Pumphrey, the running game will take over a bit more.
What to watch for on defense: The turnover in the secondary can’t be a problem. With North Carolina, Oregon State and Fresno State coming up in the first half of the season, the spotlight will be on a secondary that loses Nat Berhe and three starters. The defense only came up with eight picks last year and was way too soft at times, allowing teams to complete 61% of their passes for 3,312 yards and 31 touchdowns, and now it’s going to be ugly. The offense has the ability to keep up the pace, but there are plenty of good quarterbacks on the schedule to deal with and it could get ugly at times if there isn’t consistent pressure in the backfield.
The team will be far better if… the defense can come up with a red-zone stop. Penalties were a big problem, and turnovers were a major issue. Both have to be tightened up to get through a tough and nasty schedule, but the other big key will be to keep teams from going on long, sustained drives after the defense broke every time it had to bend a bit. Dead last in the nation in red-zone stops, Teams scored over 95% of the time inside the 20 with just two misfires – San Jose State and UNLV each missed makeable field goals. Teams scored touchdowns a whopping 86% of the time after getting inside the 20.
The Schedule: Uh oh. Eastern Illinois tagged the Aztecs to start last season. Can a good Northern Arizona team do the same? The Aztecs have to come away with a win with road games at North Carolina and Oregon State to follow. Worse yet, four of the next five games after playing NAU are on the road, kicking off Mountain West play against UNLV and then going to Fresno State and New Mexico on back-to-back Friday nights. Fortunately, the home games kick in over the second half of the season with four in the final six, but there’s one major problem – actually, two; the road games are at Boise State and Nevada. SDSU does miss Utah State and Colorado State, but considering Fresno State and Boise State were picked by the MW media to win their respective divisions, those are two deathblow road trips.
Best offensive player:
Senior QB Quinn Kaehler. He’s not going to receive much in the way of preseason all-star recognition with so many solid Mountain West quarterbacks, but the 6-4, 210-pounder is one of the league’s most effective passers, and he’ll have to be with a secondary that might force the Aztecs to get into plenty of firefights. The hope will be to control games with Donnel Pumphrey, Marcus Stamps and the running game, but as long as Kaehler is steady and can keep the interceptions and mistakes to a minimum, the offense will move.
Best defensive player: Senior LB Jake Fely. All set for a huge junior season after cranking out a special 2012 campaign as both a pass rusher and run stopper, he suffered a broken foot early on and missed most of the season. Back and ready to roll, the potential all-star will anchor a defense that should be solid against the run and has to be more disruptive in the backfield. While he’s not big, he can do it all in the middle, and outside of the foot injury, holds up well and doesn’t wear down. His return and emergence means everything to a D that brings back just four starters.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore safeties Kendrick Mathis, Na’im McGee and Malik Smith. All-around playmakers Nat Berhe and Eric Pinkins, the team’s top two tackler, are done, and it’ll be up to the new guys to shine right away. Get ready for the passing games to come their way, and they need to be ready as the three new starting safeties in the 4-2-5 alignment. McGee is a ready-made JUCO transfer who’ll likely take over Behre’s Aztec position, while Mathis and Smith each saw a little bit of time and need to be ready to shine.
The season will be a success if ... the Aztecs win eight games and go back to a fifth straight bowl game. It might sound boring, and it might not be the championship season many might like, but with so much turnover on defense and such a brutal schedule, there’s nothing wrong with maintaining the winning ways this year. As long as Rocky Long and company can avoid the drop-off into the five-win territory – which wouldn’t be a stunner with this road slate – it’ll be a decent year.
Key game: Oct. 3 at Fresno State. The Aztecs gave the loaded Bulldogs a rough time last year in a 35-28 loss, but if they can come up with a road win this year, all of a sudden the narrative of the season changes. It might not be the West division game of the year if UNLV, San Jose State and Nevada are all good, but it’ll go a long way to deciding the overall pecking order. If the Aztecs can win this, all of a sudden, they’re in the driver’s seat.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Fourth Quarter Scoring: Opponents 131 – San Diego State 123
- Time of Possession: San Diego State 32:03 – Opponents 27:57
- Red-Zone TDs: Opponents 37 in 43 trips (86%) – San Diego State 31 in 52 (60%)
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