Photo by Kelly Smiley
San Diego State football senior running back Rashaad Penny was not chosen on Monday as one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, which honors the best running back in college football.
SDSU head coach Rocky Long did not mince words when asked what he thought about the apparent snub of his star player.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Long said. “I’m really disappointed for our team and for Rashaad, but it’s not surprising, it just gets worse every year.”
Although Penny leads the country in rushing yardage with 1,824, he was left out of consideration for the award in favor of players from Power Five Conference schools (SDSU plays in the Mountain West Conference as part of what is known as the Group of Five), with the three finalists announced as Penn State University junior Saquon Barkley, Stanford University senior Bryce Love, and University of Wisconsin freshman Jonathon Taylor.
“They’re trying to exclude us (Group of Five), they’re trying to eliminate us, they’re trying to make us a different division than them is exactly what’s going on,” Long said. “The people that are with them are going to make sure that the non-Power Five guys don’t get any recognition.”
Penny has been a catalyst on offense this season for SDSU, scoring 17 touchdowns on the ground – 22 total – rushing for over 100 yards in nine games, and over 200 yards in four (including the last three, a school record).
He is currently 310 yards away from breaking the school record of 2,133 rushing yards in a season, set last year by Donnel Pumphrey.
“I think it’s a joke. It’s awful. I mean he’s obviously one of the best running backs in the nation,” senior tight end David Wells said. “I don’t see any other running backs doing what he does.”
Penny’s 2,462 all-purpose yards by far leads the nation – the next closest is Barkley with 2,070 – and he has two kick return touchdowns and one punt return touchdown.
The latter he achieved on his first career punt return as part of a school-record 429-yard performance this past weekend in the Aztecs’ 42-23 victory over the University of Nevada.
“Take all those other guys that are up for those awards, any of them return punts for touchdowns? Look at all those guys again, did any of them return kickoffs for touchdowns? I don’t think so,” Long said.
Senior safety Trey Lomax said he does not understand how Penny can be left out.
“I think it’s unacceptable really like what else does he have to do? I think it’s terrible. I don’t understand it at all,” Lomax said. “He puts up the numbers he does and then doesn’t get the respect or recognition that he deserves.”
Penny, for his part, took the news graciously, and said that his only focus is winning football games.
“I just play the game to win, and help us win, I really don’t compare myself to anybody else,” Penny said. “It’s really not in my hands, all we do is just play the game that we love and have fun.”