Aztecs turn out lights on No. 19 Stanford – post electrifying 20-17 win

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The San Diego State University football team recorded one of its most meaningful wins in program history when the Aztecs defeated the 19th-ranked Stanford Cardinal, 20-17, last Saturday, Sept. 16, at San Diego Stadium.

The win allowed SDSU (3-0) to jump into the No. 22 position in the latest Associated Press poll.

Prior to defeating Stanford, SDSU recorded an equally mesmerizing 30-20 win at Arizona State on Sept. 9.

Aztec head coach Rocky Long remained predictably modest after the groundbreaking win over the Cardinal.

The San Diego State University football team recorded one of its most meaningful wins in program history when the Aztecs defeated the 19th-ranked Stanford Cardinal, 20-17, last Saturday, Sept. 16, at San Diego Stadium.

The win allowed SDSU (3-0) to jump into the No. 22 position in the latest Associated Press poll.

Prior to defeating Stanford, SDSU recorded an equally mesmerizing 30-20 win at Arizona State on Sept. 9.

Aztec head coach Rocky Long remained predictably modest after the groundbreaking win over the Cardinal.

“All I do is facilitate letting players play, try to point them in the right direction, give them a scheme that gives them a chance to win,” the SDSU head coach said. “Players win games, coaches do not. So I’m proud of them. I’m happy for them.

“In fact, one long run tonight was my fault because I called a lousy defense. If I’d have called the right defense, they might not have scored as many points as they did.”

At game’s end, hundreds of students swarmed the field, which Long admitted was “a little scary.”

“All those college kids running out there, I didn’t know what to think,” the SDSU head coach said. “But, no, I thought it was really neat. I thought it was cool.”

The Aztecs, who are 24-3 in their last 27 games, are ranked for the first time this season after finishing 25th in the 2016 final poll.

SDSU is stationed between No. 21 South Florida and No. 23 Utah, both also with 3-0 records.

A trio of unbeaten (3-0) top the latest AP poll: Alabama (first), Clemson (second), Oklahoma (third), Penn State (fourth) and USC (fifth).

Stanford dropped out of the latest poll.

Aztec players are understandably stoked about the Top 25 ranking this early in the season.

“No one gave us a chance but the guys in our room, our coaches, the guys on our floor,” junior quarterback Christian Chapman said. “The people around us believed in us. That was the expectation … we don’t care who you are, we’re going to play smash-mouth football and compete with you. I think that shows the nation we're 3-0.”

Players of the week

San Diego State senior captains Rashaad Penny (Offensive Player of the Week) and Kameron Kelly (Defensive Player of the Week) each were named Mountain West Players of the Week following the latest Aztec victory.

It is the third consecutive player of the week award for Penny, who earned honors as the Walter Camp National FBS Offensive Player of the Week after collecting a career-high 216 rushing yards and a touchdown while also scoring on a 99-yard kick return and adding 38 receiving yards and a touchdown in the win over Arizona State. 

Penny amassed 353 all-purpose yards in the win over the Sun Devils — the most this season in a FBS game.

Penny rushed a career-high 32 times for 175 yards against Stanford while adding a career-high five receptions for 31 yards. He scored on a four-yard run with 43 seconds left in the first half to put the hosts in front 10-7.

Kelly recorded six tackles, including five unassisted tackles, with a career-high two sacks, career-best two tackles for loss, his first career forced fumble and an interception.

The interception stopped Stanford’s final drive to preserve the win for the Aztecs as they went into victory formation.

Penny leads the nation in rushing yards (588), rushing yards per game (196.0) and all-purpose yards (774). He is second in overall touchdowns with six.

Kelly ranks third on the team with 15 tackles, including 14 solo stops (tied for the team lead). He has also three tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble.

It was a complete victory by the Aztecs, playing in front of an announced crowd of 43,040.

SDSU’s defense limited Stanford to six three-and-outs, forced three turnovers — the Cardinal had not turned the ball over in six straight games and had just two turnovers combined in its last eight games. The Aztecs dominated the time of possession: 41:14 to 18:46.

The 18:46 time of possession was the fewest time of possession for a Stanford team since at least 1996. 

The Aztecs out-gained Stanford 358 to 238 in total yards.

Offensively, the Aztecs received field goals of 43 and 36 yards from John Baron, Penny’s short TD run and a eight-yard scoring pass from Chapman to David Wells with 54 seconds to play to stand up as the game-winning touchdown.

SDSU led, 3-0, after Baron connected on the 43-yard field goal with 6:28 to play in the first quarter.

The visitors went ahead, 7-3, on a 51-yard breakaway run by Stanford’s Bryce Love with 1:20 left in the quarter.

After Penny’s second quarter touchdown put the hosts in front, Baron added to the Aztec lead with the 36-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to make the score 13-10.

However, the visitors came back with a 20-yard field goal by Jet Toner and a 53-yard breakaway run by Love to close out the third quarter and, in the process, move in front 17-13.

Baron missed a 50-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.

The game had an exciting conclusion, Chapman’s game-winning TD pass notwithstanding.

The stadium went dark with 3:58 to play with SDSU in possession of the football near midfield. It took about 20 minutes for power to be restored and the stadium lights to come back on.

The Aztecs continued to mark down field to electrify the crowd with Wells’ TD catch.

Chapman, despite being sacked six times by the Stanford defense, completed 21 of 29 passing attempts for 187 yards and one touchdown.

Mikah Holder had seven catches for 85 yards to lead SDSU receivers.

Ron Smith had an interception return for 22 yards while Damon Moore had a fumble recovery to help key the SDSU defensive effort. Smith led the team with seven tackles in the game, followed by Kelly with six.

Love led the Cardinal with 184 net rushing yards and two touchdowns. Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst completed eight of 19 passing attempts for just 56 yards. He was sacked four times.

The Aztecs now embark on a trip to Colorado Springs to play the Air Force Academy in their first conference game. The Falcons enter the Sept. 22 game with a 1-1 record on the season.

SDSU, which is 3-0 for the second straight season and for just the third time over the last 36 years, is bidding to win its third consecutive Mountain West championship.

Gold stars
The SDSU-Stanford game featured a slew of local San Diego County high school products on both teams — 19 on the Aztec roster and eight on the Cardinal roster.

Highlighting the matchup between area players was a battle of twin brothers: Mikah Holder (SDSU) and Alijah Holder (Stanford). Both attended Oceanside High School.

A pair of Saintsmen also squared off: junior free safety Frank Buncom IV (Stanford) and freshman safety Tariq Thompson (SDSU). Both are recent graduates of St. Augustine High School — Buncom in 2015 and Thompson in 2017.

Buncom, who entered Saturday’s game with six tackles, was credited with one unassisted tackle in the loss to the Aztecs while Thompson, who had one interception in SDSU’s opening two games, was credited with two tackles, including one solo stop.

Among Stanford’s stable of San Diego County players, junior punter Jake Bailey (Santa Fe Christian) punted six times for a 38.7 average, with a longest punt of 52 yards, while also recording four touchbacks on four kick-offs (65.0 average).

Junior cornerback Quenton Meeks (Del Norte) recorded seven tackles on defense for the Cardinal while Alijah Holder and Jordan Perez (Carlsbad) each made four stops and junior outside linebacker Casey Toohill (Cathedral Catholic) was credited with one tackle.

Among SDSU’s local players, senior safety Trey Lomax (Mira Mesa) had five tackles and one pass break-up while sophomore linebacker Troy Cassidy (Carlsbad) had one tackle. Lomax entered the Stanford game leading the Aztecs with 11 tackles on the season.

Buncom’s name should be familiar; he is the grandson of former Charger Ring of Honor inductee Frank Buncom Jr. who played from 1962-67 during the team's days in the American Football League and was a three-time AFL All-Star selection.

San Diego Stadium opened during Buncom's final season with the Chargers, thus creating some family history with Buncom, the grandson, also playing on the same field as Buncom, the grandfather, both as a high school and now college player.

The Saints (2-2) host third-ranked Helix (2-1) in their next game on Sept. 23. Kick off is 7 p.m.

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