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SDSU topples No. 19 Stanford, 20-17

Sophomore+cornerback+Ron+Smith+intercepts+a+pass+during+the+second+quarter+of+SDSU%27s+20-17+win+over+Stanford+University.
Sophomore cornerback Ron Smith intercepts a pass during the second quarter of SDSU's 20-17 win over Stanford University.

Sophomore cornerback Ron Smith intercepts a pass during the second quarter of SDSU's 20-17 win over Stanford University.

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Sophomore cornerback Ron Smith intercepts a pass during the second quarter of SDSU's 20-17 win over Stanford University.

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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Lifetime San Diego State football fan and San Diego native Gregg Anderson stood on the field next to his son, still in shock after watching the Aztecs defeat No. 19 Stanford, 20-17.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in San Diego State’s history,” Anderson said. “My son, this is his first game, and he got to see this. Unbelievable.”

Anderson was one of many SDSU fans who rushed the field after the two-time defending Mountain West Conference champions defeated the Cardinal.

The defining moment of the game came when redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman found tight end David Wells for an 8-yard touchdown to close out a drive that started at the SDSU 28-yard line and included two long passes to senior wide receiver Mikah Holder, six runs by senior running back Rashaad Penny and a 22-minute power outage.

“It’s an awesome feeling. Stuff you dream of as a kid,” Wells said after the game. Scoring a game-winning touchdown, then the whole entire fan base rushing the field. It’s an awesome feeling.”

The atmosphere was electric from the start, as a raucous crowd of 43,040 greeted Stanford with a chorus of boos as they ran out onto the field, and exploded after an eight-yard sack of senior quarterback Keller Chryst by SDSU junior defensive end Noble Hall helped result in a quick Cardinal three-and-out to begin the game. 

The stage was set for a physical affair, and both quarterbacks were under constant attack. Chapman was taken down six times, while SDSU sacked Chryst four times. 

“In the first half, they were bringing pressure,” Chapman said. “They were getting to me a little bit.”

Aztecs Head coach Rocky Long had nothing but good things to say about his quarterback, who finished with 187 yards on 21 of 29 passing in addition to his one touchdown, and was especially pleased with the resiliency he showed.

“You don’t take an average quarterback and chase him around and beat him up and knock him down, then have him come out and lead the game winning drive,” Long said. “A good quarterback does that. An average quarterback doesn’t do that.”

One of the main storylines leading up to the game was the play of both team’s starting running backs. SDSU senior running back Rashaad Penny started the week leading the FBS in rushing yards with 423, while Stanford junior running back Bryce Love ranked fourth overall with 340. 

The matchup did not disappoint, with Love racking up 184 yards to go with two touchdowns on only 13 carries, while Penny finished with 175 yards on 31 attempts to go along with one touchdown.

Penny, who came into the week averaging 10.6 yards per carry, struggled early to find an opening against a swarming Cardinal defense, and averaged only 4.1 yards per carry in the first half. 

Love started slowly as well, with only three yards in the first quarter, but came alive in a big way in the early stages of the second. The Stanford running back silenced the crowd when he streaked 51 yards down the Aztecs left sideline for the game’s first touchdown with 12:38 to play in the half. The run was part of a 3-play drive that took only a minute and twenty seconds off the clock. 

The Cardinal held a slim 7-3 lead before an interception by sophomore cornerback Ron Smith, who led SDSU with 7 tackles, gave the Aztecs the ball at their opponents 15-yard line with 1:14 left to go in the first half. Three plays later, Penny burst through the line and found the endzone for a 4-yard touchdown.

Penny was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play for spiking the ball in the endzone, and Stanford ended up with good starting field position at their own 44-yard line after the 15-yard penalty was enforced on the kickoff.

A 16-yard completion by Chryst to senior tight end Dalton Schultz set up the Cardinal at the Aztecs 40-yard line, and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on SDSU senior defensive tackle Sergio Phillips moved them even closer.

Aztecs senior cornerback Kameron Kelly ended the Stanford threat however, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the home side while recording his second sack of the half, both of which came on corner blitzes. 

“Coach Long put me in a good position with all the plays he called,” Kelly said. “Those two corner blitzes, only two times he ran them, and they came up both times.”

SDSU knelt to end the half up 10-7, and a second round of boos rained down on the Stanford players as both teams jawed at the other while crossing paths heading into their separate locker rooms.

After trading field goals to start the third quarter to make the score 13-10, Love gave an encore of his first score on the first play of the fourth quarter, this time rushing to the right for a 53-yard touchdown to give Stanford a 17-13 lead.

On their next drive, following a 36-yard rush by Penny, the Aztecs got the ball down to the Stanford 24-yard line. An 8-yard sack by junior linebacker Casey Toohill pushed them to the edge of Baron’s field goal range, and the subsequent 51-yard kick attempt fell short.

Stanford took over with the chance to ice the game.

Instead, the Cardinal were forced to punt, and SDSU got its shot to put together one last drive with 6:15 left.

Then, with 3:58 on the clock, and the Aztecs on the Stanford 42-yard line, the stadium went dark. The flickering of cell phone lights filled the stands, and a chant of “I believe that we will win,” reverberated throughout. 

The Aztecs players were paying attention. 

“Crazy. Can’t write it any better,” Chapman said. “Lights shut off, everybody is showing their lights. The fans are going crazy. Telling our brothers, this is it, this is our drive. If we want to be something, this is what we got to do.”

Following the delay, SDSU drove the final 42 yards down the field, scoring on the 8-yard touchdown pass from Chapman to Wells that gave them the 20-17 lead with 54 seconds to play. 

Stanford’s final chance fell short, as Kelly intercepted the next pass from Chryst to seal a third straight SDSU victory. 

“This was definitely a statement game for us, come out here and show what kind of team we are,” Wells said. “Showed how tough we are, how resilient we are no matter what happened. Now it’s time to get back to business.”

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “SDSU topples No. 19 Stanford, 20-17”

  1. Matt on September 17th, 2017 9:12 am

    What a game! Even some Stanford fans were clapping for the Aztecs by the end of the game. Go Aztecs!!

  2. Joe Solis on September 17th, 2017 1:03 pm

    The most exciting game I’ve seen, probably since tying BYU to go to the ’86 Holiday Bowl. WOW!
    Joe Solis, ’87, Marching Aztecs Alumni.

  3. Tita Gray on September 17th, 2017 5:52 pm

    So proud to be an Aztec no matter where I am in the world. Our football players deserve to be acknowledged outside of the Mountain West.

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