Aztecs drop close one to Navy in Poinsettia Bowl

by Ryan Posner, Staff Writer

San Diego State lost to the Naval Academy 17-16 in the 2014 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Saturday night at Qualcomm Stadium.

A 34-yard missed field goal from SDSU’s junior kicker Donny Hageman in the final seconds of the game sealed the win for Navy.

Hageman had been solid all game long, hitting three field goals before the miss to keep the Aztecs in it.

“I thought it was a great football game,” head coach Rocky Long said after the game. “I thought both teams played extremely hard. It ended up they made one more play than we did. I thought it was a great football game. We make a field goal, (and) the other team’s sad.”

SDSU’s defense arguably played its best game of the season, holding the No. 1 rushing attack in the nation to 254 yards, almost a full 100 yards below its season average.

Between the defense and the special teams, SDSU recovered four fumbles; the most it has had since 2003.

“It’s awesome when the defense gets a turnover, (it) gets us hyped up and stuff but we made too many mistakes and they made one more play than we did,” senior linebacker Josh Gavert said..

While the defense played top notch, the SDSU offense struggled mightily all night, The offense was only able to convert six points off the four turnovers its defense provided.

Also, a decision to go for it in the red-zone on fourth and five with a little less than nine minutes in the fourth quarter, rather than kick a field goal, proved to be a costly mistake.

“I thought both teams played extremely hard, I thought both defenses played really, really well, and both offenses struggled,” Long said. “Otherwise there would have been a lot more points on the board.”

Senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler went 11-27 on the night with 141 yards and two interceptions.

He did not receive any help from his wide receivers who dropped passes all night. He was also without the team’s leading receiver, senior Ezell Ruffin, whom Long suspended for missing practice.

Sophomore running back Donnel Pumphrey had another solid game rushing for 112 yards on 21 carries, but coughed up a fumble late in the fourth quarter that set up Navy’s go-ahead field goal.

Pumphrey made a little history though, as he became SDSU’s all-time single season rushing leader in the third quarter with 1,867 yards.

“Honestly, it’s great but we didn’t get the win,” a teary eyed Pumphrey said after the game. “It was a hard one.”

Navy’s junior kicker Austin Grebe hit a 24-yard field goal with 1:27 left in the game, which went on to be the game-deciding field goal.

SDSU’s appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl marked a school-record fifth straight bowl game appearance. A win would have marked its second victory against Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl.

“We had several fifth-year seniors that came here when the team was two and 10,” Long said. “They came here with a belief that they could change the attitude of the program. Going to five straight bowl games is a good accomplishment for a team that was two and 10 five years ago.”