Notebook: Pumphrey’s surprise appearance sparks SDSU

by Patrick Carr, Sports Editor

Judging by the way junior running back Donnel Pumphrey walked off the field against Fresno State last week, no one would’ve thought he would start against University of Hawaii on Saturday night.

Well he did, and there was hardly an indication he was hurt, despite repeated play calls of Pumphrey running right in the middle of the defense.

All talk during the week implied that senior running back Chase Price would start. Price did get 16 rushes and 60 yards, but that was dwarfed a little bit by Pumphrey’s workload.

The San Diego State star running back had 67 yards on the first drive, including a 33-yard touchdown to cap off the first drive and give SDSU an early 7-0 lead.

Pumphrey finished with 148 yards on 30 rushes with three touchdowns.

Junior wide receiver Eric Judge also justified receivers coach Hunkie Cooper’s high praise of him during the offseason with an impressive game. Judge had four catches for 92 yards, one of them being a 58-yard touchdown from graduate transfer quarterback Maxwell Smith on a wide-open play-action throw.

The TV commentators gave high praise to junior linebacker Randy Ricks, who at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, stands as an imposing figure in the defense’s second level. Ricks didn’t have an impressive game on the stat sheet, but he made his presence felt on several key plays, including two straight pass breakups in the second quarter.

For viewers on the West Coast who stayed up late to watch the Aztecs, they had to brave the wee hours of Sunday morning in order to watch the whole game. For those keeping track, the third quarter didn’t end until 11:45 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Smith had his best game of the season, throwing for 184 yards on a 11-15 clip with one touchdown and no interceptions for the third straight game.

Blaine making a big impact in punting game

Against Hawaii, SDSU junior punter Tanner Blaine averaged 43.2 yards per punt, had two punts of 50-plus yards and had three more punts land inside the 20-yard line.

Fifteen of Blaine’s 41 punts this season have landed inside the 20, giving the Aztecs a vital weapon to change field position, which, even midway through the season, is crucially important because of the offense’s ineptitude.

Long hits century mark

A big positive from Saturday’s win was head coach Rocky Long grabbing win No. 100 as a head coach. His all-time record is now 100-92 as a head coach, and 35-23 as SDSU’s skipper, dating back to 2011 when he took over for Michigan-bound Brady Hoke.

Quote of the night

From the TV commentators on Oceanic pay-per-view:

“This is not Canada,” one said in response to SDSU committing a false start on a punt in the fourth quarter, in which two players shifted at the same time, which is only legal in Canadian football.

They also pronounced senior cornerback J.J. Whittaker’s name as J.J. “Whitlock.”

Thankfully for Aztec fans, the game aired on Time Warner Cable in the area and not Oceanic pay-per-view, which was a concern for some during the week.