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Aztecs remain undefeated with victory over Rebels

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Senior running back Rashaad Penny looks for open field during a run in SDSU's 34-28 win over Northern Illinois.

Senior running back Rashaad Penny looks for open field during a run in SDSU's 34-28 win over Northern Illinois.

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Photo by Kelly Smiley

Senior running back Rashaad Penny looks for open field during a run in SDSU's 34-28 win over Northern Illinois.

by Abraham Jewett, Assistant Sports Editor

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No. 19 San Diego State football improved to 6-0 on the season, defeating the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 41-10. 

Both teams wore red ribbon emblems on their helmets during the game, on a night which began with a pregame ceremony at Sam Boyd Stadium, paying tribute to the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. Following a moment of silence, 58 white balloons, each representing one person who lost their life in the tragedy, were released into the sky.

SDSU senior running back Rashaad Penny, who wrote “Vegas Strong” on his eye black, spoke to ESPN2 after the game about what it meant to play in Las Vegas so soon after the tragedy.

“I felt the emotions every play,” Penny said. “We’re so sorry for what happened, and we just send our blessings out to them.” 

The Aztecs’ win keeps their undefeated season alive and moves them to 2-0 in Mountain West Conference play.

The victory also increased the Aztecs win streak to eight games dating back to last season. 

The Aztecs never trailed, and benefited from senior contributions by wide receiver Mikah Holder, who finished with season highs in both receptions (nine) and yards (144), and Penny, who rushed for 170 yards on 27 attempts to go with two touchdowns.

“I really don’t matter about the stats,” Penny said to ESPN2. “Only thing that matters is about getting this big team win, and that’s something we came out here to do.” 

The Aztecs threatened to score on their first drive of the game, but came up short after Penny fumbled inside UNLV’s five-yard line, the team’s first lost fumble of the season.

Penny was able to regroup after the early mistake, and had the support of Aztecs offensive coordinator Jeff Horton.

“I kind of challenged (Penny) at halftime, said ‘If you think you’re the best running back in the country now’s a great time to go prove it,'” Horton said. “‘Come out here and let’s show them how Rashaad Penny can run the ball.'”

As a team the Aztecs rushed for 302 yards, exceeding their average of 207 coming in.

In the second quarter SDSU junior quarterback Christian Chapman ran for his first career rushing touchdown, a weaving 14-yard score which gave the Aztecs a 10-3 lead.

Chapman threw for 172 yards, and went without throwing an interception for the fifth straight week.

Each week he’s just getting better and better,” Horton said of his quarterback. 

SDSU sophomore running back Juwan Washington finished with 95 yards rushing on 10 carries, and ran for a 34-yard touchdown in the second quarter that made the score 17-3.

SDSU outgained the Rebels in yardage 474 to 283, and was able to stifle junior running back Lexington Thomas, who came in averaging 142.75 rushing yards a game, but was only able to run for 54 yards on 14 carries.

Aztecs defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said that some moments of poor tackling kept them from holding the Rebels to much less yardage.

“If we make three tackles they have 100-yards-total-offense,” Gonzales said.

A 54-yard reception by UNLV junior wide receiver Brandon Presley helped set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Armani Rogers to senior wide receiver Kendal Keys, which got the Rebels to within 17-10 with 5:48 to play in the first half. 

Rogers showed off his rushing ability on a 45-yard quarterback keep in the first quarter, but was held in check for the rest of the night, finishing with 51 yards on the ground to go with 177 yards and a touchdown through the air.

“We kept (Rogers) contained enough, and got enough shots on him that he wasn’t able to get out and get numerous big plays,” Gonzales said.

SDSU carried a 20-10 lead into the halftime break, following a 33-yard field goal by senior kicker John Baron II.

The Aztecs built their lead to 27-10 in the third quarter, with an 80-yard drive that included runs of 34 and 25 yards from Penny, who picked up 70 rushing yards on the drive.

A one-yard walk-in rushing touchdown by Penny, his second score of the night, increased the Aztecs lead to 34-10 with 7:11 to play in the game.

SDSU redshirt freshman running back Chase Jasmin scored the first touchdown of his career on an 8-yard rush with 1:40 left, the final points of the night. 

The victory was SDSU’s fourth straight win against UNLV, dating back to 2014. 

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