Aztec Football: San Diego State Ends Season with Loss to Army in Armed Forces Bowl

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San Diego State Aztecs running back Rashaad Penny (20) scores a touchdown during the Armed Forces Bowl game between the Army Black Knights and the San Diego State Aztecs on December 23, 2017 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)

Despite big plays from senior running back Rashaad Penny, the San Diego State football team couldn’t contain Army’s last-second rally in the 42-35 loss at the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday.

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After Penny ran for his fourth touchdown of the game to give San Diego State (10-3) a 35-28 lead with 5:47 left, Army (10-3) responded by driving the ball 72 yards for a touchdown.

Darnell Woolfolk scored on a 1-yard run with 18 seconds left to move the Black Knights within one point of the Aztecs. In a gutsy play, Kell Walker took a pitch and ran untouched to the right for the go-ahead two-point conversion. The Aztecs then fumbled a lateral during a desperate final play that was recovered by Army’s Elijah Riley for a touchdown.

“We had some chances to put the game away just like they did and we didn’t win it,” SDSU coach Rocky Long said. “So there are no excuses for not winning but obviously, we’re disappointed.”

Army’s option offense dominated the time of possession. The Black Knights’ drives were measured in minutes, while the Aztecs’ were measured in seconds. Army’s opening drive in the third quarter, for example, took 11 minutes and 19 seconds in a 15-minute quarter. In total, the Black Knights ran 91 plays in 46 minutes compared to the Aztecs’ 30 in 13:53.

Coming into the game, SDSU was ranked ninth in the FBS in rush defense, allowing an average of 110.4 yards per game. In this game, however, Army ran for 120 yards in the first quarter alone and 440 overall.

“I think our defense played really, really poorly,” Long said. “And that’s coaching so that’s my fault.”

The star of the game for the Aztecs was, again, Penny. The senior running back rushed for 221 yards on 14 carries — his fifth straight game with 200 or more yards. Penny scored in every quarter, including an 81-yard TD on his first carry on the third play of the game. A 31-yard, 49-yard and 4-yard scoring runs would follow.

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Penny also added key blocks to allow Juwan Washington to score the Aztecs’ other touchdown on a 78-yard kickoff return. He also broke SDSU’s single-season rushing record set by Donnel Pumphrey last year with 2,248 yards.

“Even though he might not get the credit he deserves, we were blessed as a program to have the best running back in the country, and he showed it again today,” Long said. “When you have one of those guys, he makes it easier to win. We would have won tonight if we had played better defense.”

Penny was equally disappointed in not getting a win for his final college game but said the focus isn’t on him anymore. It’s on next year’s team.

“We lost. It’s frustrating. I’m disappointed but just move on,” he said. “I know these guys have a great future ahead of them. Just have to put this loss behind them and come back hard in the offseason.”

Penny said he ended this college career “the right way. But I’m so disappointed and frustrated that we didn’t get the win.”

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