SDSU football can’t keep up with Cal offense, loses 35-7

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SDSU football can’t keep up with Cal offense, loses 35-7

by Patrick Carr, Sports Editor

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Perhaps the most interesting item on the San Diego State versus UC Berkeley menu on Saturday was SDSU’s lockdown pass defense going up against Cal’s high-octane pass offense.

It was intriguing to wonder how the Aztecs’ pass defense, which excelled so well a year ago, would fare against Heisman hopeful junior quarterback Jared Goff and his talented group of receivers and running backs.

But that was apparently only a good matchup on paper, as Goff made a mockery of the supposedly stalwart SDSU secondary and threw for more yards than the Aztecs had on total offense en route to a 35-7 win.

It didn’t help the Aztecs that they committed 11 penalties for for 127 yards with six of them being personal fouls.

But for the first five minutes of the game, it looked like weakness versus weakness would take center stage.

SDSU’s offense sliced through the Cal defense on the first drive; it looked like the Aztecs were going to control the clock on their drives, which they needed to do.

It also looked like the Aztec defense was going to keep Goff on the sideline, where he couldn’t do any damage, which it needed to do.

That was the case as SDSU controlled the ball longer than Cal, but Goff didn’t need any time to pick apart SDSU’s secondary. He engineered scoring drives of 52 seconds at the end of the first half and 10 seconds at the beginning of the second half.

The Bears raced down the field early in the second quarter and Goff threw a perfect four-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Darius Powe to tie the game 7-7.

SDSU senior quarterback Maxwell Smith was replaced in the second quarter by redshirt-freshman quarterback Christian Chapman despite going 6-10 for 77 yards and a touchdown at the time.

Chapman didn’t justify the move, throwing an interception with 1:21 left in the first half. He finished with 37 yards on a 4-13 clip with the interception.

Three plays, 65 yards and 52 seconds later, Goff and company had raced in for a touchdown thanks to a 13-yard catch-and-run from Goff to senior receiver Maurice Harris.

Cal didn’t need half that time to score in the second half. Goff pump faked junior safety Malik Smith out his shoes and threw a 75-yard touchdown pass right over Smith’s head to a wide-open senior receiver Trevor Davis for a 21-7 lead.

If there was any consolation for the Aztecs, it was the fact that there was 14:50 left in the third quarter, which meant plenty of time to try to re-establish the running game.

Junior running back Donnel Pumphrey, who hadn’t been able to change the game as much as offensive coordinator Jeff Horton would’ve liked, shook two defenders and spun for a first down to start the next SDSU drive.

It was called back by a personal foul on sophomore wide receiver Christian Cumberlander.

Pumphrey was held under 100 yards for the second straight game, finishing with 85 yards on 21 carries.

After that drive, SDSU’s defense looked like it had boarded the early flight back to San Diego. Cal senior running back Daniel Lasco ran at will, letting the secondary avoid ignominy for the time being.

Ironically, it was a penalty that looked like it could be a turning point, although it wasn’t on the Aztecs.

Goff lofted a perfect pass to sophomore receiver Chad Hansen, but Hansen was called for offensive pass interference and Cal traveled exclusively in reverse, ending up punting on fourth and 41.

The Aztecs couldn’t move the ball and Goff once again executed a Bears’ touchdown drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown run from Lasco to make it 28-7. Lasco had 123 yards on 19 carries and the touchdown.

SDSU is now 3-4 all time against Cal with all three wins coming at home and all four losses coming on the road.

An Aztecs’ team looking to solidify itself as a Mountain West contender was undone by a better opponent and numerous bad penalties.

SDSU’s record is 1-1, but in terms of bowl eligibility its record is 0-1. Last weekend’s win over University of San Diego doesn’t count towards bowl eligibility because USD doesn’t offer football scholarships.

That make’s next weekend’s home game against University of South Alabama even more important with Penn State and Fresno State looming.

A Cal defense that was arguably the worst in the country last season stopped Pumphrey, stopped Smith and stopped the SDSU running game which was, like the defense, touted for success in 2015.

Possibly the most important task for Horton to accomplish this coming week is to figure out the quarterback situation. Will Smith or Chapman start against South Alabama? Smith fared slightly better than Chapman on Saturday, going 10-19 for 136 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

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