Penny’s performance just a harbinger of great things to come


Photo by Kelly Smiley

Senior running back Rashaad Penny blows by UC Davis defenders on his way to a long touchdown.

by Kyle Saunders, Staff Columnist

Anyone who watched Saturday night’s battle between San Diego State football and Arizona State would have witnessed one of the best performances by a San Diego State running back ever, and yes that includes Marshall Faulk and Donnel Pumphrey.

What senior running back Rashaad Penny did to the Sun Devils will go down in history books, as he accumulated a career-high 353  all-purpose yards and found the end zone three times against the favored Pac-12 team. 

This was a game that SDSU was written out of by most critics and even some Daily Aztec writers. Arizona State was going to have a statement victory against the Aztecs, showing that it could hang with the rest of the star-studded Pac-12 conference . Penny had something different in mind, and Head coach Rocky Long summed up SDSU’s game plan simply.

“Some of it is by design, but as always, players win and players lose,” Long said.

With Penny’s immaculate performance against ASU, there is a realistic argument that he is a Heisman Trophy contender. The only thing separating him from the rest of the elite running backs in the country is where he goes to school.

No matter how you put it, no matter how many yards he gains and touchdowns he scores, the fact that he does not play for a power five conference means that he is already fighting an uphill battle. 

“It is the same problem we had last year with DJ (Donnel) Pumphrey. DJ should have won the Doak Walker Award without a doubt,” Long said. “If you would have taken a vote with just coaches, he would have won it. But that is not the way it works. So Rashaad Penny is going to be one of the best four or five running backs in the country and has no chance on winning the award.” 

The difference between Penny and Pumphrey is clear. While Penny is nowhere close to breaking DJ’s rushing yard record, he will have a better shot to win the Heisman if he can put on a show against Stanford and consistently dominate the rest of the Mountain West. 

Now before you pull the pitchforks and tiki torches out, consider this: DJ’s strongest opponent in his record-breaking senior season was UC Berkeley, one of the weaker teams in the Pac-12, and against whom ASU scored 51 points en route to victory. Not only did SDSU play the Sun Devils this season, it convincingly beat them on the road thanks to Penny’s performance. 

The Aztecs also gets to play one of the best teams in the country this season, as no. 19 Stanford comes to San Diego on Sept. 16 for a showdown with implications this football team has never experienced. The Scarlet and Black can explode onto the national scene if they can pull an upset over the Cardinal, and now that Pumphrey has left the Mesa, Penny is ready to shine.

“We think he is one of the best running backs in the country,” Long said. “He had a great year last year, but didn’t carry it as much because the guy in front of him set the all time NCAA record for rushing.”

Obviously the impending game against Stanford will ultimately decide Penny’s fate. The game will be the best shot we’ve seen for an SDSU running back to gain national attention since Marshall Faulk.

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