The last game of the season for the San Diego State Aztecs was a very interesting matchup against the Houston Cougars, in the always wild and crazy Las Vegas Bowl.
Houston has been a little tough to figure out this year, as they have two of the most unlikely victories this season in CFB, beating both Oklahoma and Louisville, who were ranked #3 at the time. At the same time this squad has also lost against Memphis and Navy this 2016 season.
Which Cougar team would show up? The one that laid eggs, or the one that totally embarrassed Lamar Jackson when they sacked the Heisman Trophy winner 11 times this year.
The Aztecs started very slow (as usual) on Saturday in Sin City. Perhaps they were stunned by Houston’s overall speed on the defensive line, or maybe they were just a little tight.
The Cougars jumped to a quick 10-0 lead after quarterback Greg Ward scored on a touchdown run. Just like in the Mountain West championship game, SDSU would have to stage a comeback in order to win a game against a legit opponent.
In the second quarter, the Aztecs started to get it going on offense, as D.J. Pumphrey broke a long run to the Houston red zone. However, the Aztecs settled for a FG to make it 10-3 as they were unable to punch it in. The Aztecs got the ball back with over three minutes to go in the half, and managed another FG with 1:29 left in the quarter to get the score 10-6. That would be the score at halftime as Rocky Long’s team went in to regroup. It was encouraging to see SDSU compete and make things interesting, but no one could have predicted what the 3rd quarter had in store for us.
Houston received the 2nd half kickoff and the Aztecs picked off Greg Ward (that would be a trend). Unfortunately, SDSU couldn’t get anything going and punted the ball away. On the Cougars 2nd possession of the half, Calvin Munson picked off Ward and gave the Aztecs great momentum in the game. That momentum was capped off by a TD run by Pumphrey, which put the Aztecs up 13-10 and gave them their first lead of the game.
On the ensuing Houston drive, the Aztecs not only picked off Ward again, but this time they ran it back to go up 20-10. Overall, SDSU’s defense was playing simply amazing, as they had four interceptions, eight sacks, and 12 TFL against a team that many considered playoff worthy at the beginning of the season.
It was a great win, but this game truly belonged to Donnell Pumphrey. When the game started, he needed 108 yards to become the leading rusher in FBS history. He reached that pinnacle early in the 4th quarter on a 12-yard sweep. For the day, he finished with 115 yards on 19 carries and a TD. He also had a ridiculous catch on the sideline in the 3rd quarter.
Juwan Washington would score the game’s last touchdown on a short run to make the final score 34-10 for SDSU. This was a great team victory, and should not be diminished because Houston showed early on that they came to Vegas to play hard. On Saturday, the Cougars couldn’t get their offense going against the Aztecs defense and that was the difference in the game.