San Diego State won at Fresno State for the first time since 1997 … in a game played in the style of how the game was played in, say, 1957.
And for Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey, that was just the way he likes it.
Pumphrey continued to pad his career yardage numbers by gaining 220 yards to lead San Diego State to a 17-3 victory at Bulldog Stadium Friday night. The Aztecs are 5-1 for the first time since 1977. San Diego State went 10-1 that season … and the only loss was to Fresno State.
Playing in relative obscurity of the West coast and the Mountain West Conference, Pumphrey’s Heisman Trophy chances are long-shot at best. But it’s hard to argue with his numbers. He entered the game leading the nation in rushing with 891 yards; his 178 rushing yards per game was 30 yards ahead of No. 2.
And his career numbers continue to climb. He’s already blasted past Marshall Faulk’s school career record (set in in just three seasons) and he’s rising through the NCAA career rushing charts like a Beyonce song goes up the charts. Now with 5,383 yards, Pumphrey moved into eighth place, passing the likes of Archie Griffin, Herschel Walker and LaDainian Tomlinson.
As CBS Sports Network analyst Aaron Taylor put it late in the game: “Donnel Pumphrey is a hell of a football player.”
With six regular-season games, a possible Mountain West Conference title game and a bowl game, Pumphrey needs 1,014 yards to pass Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne, the NCAA career rushing leader.
It was Pumphrey’s 27th career game with 100 yards rushing, an MWC record, and his fifth 200-yard game ties the MWC career record.
The Aztecs claimed the Oil Can Trophy in this rivalry and won their 13th consecutive Mountain West Conference game. A real oil can would have been helpful to loosen up both offenses. If not for Pumphrey, it’s possible the game could have gone to overtime tied at zero. San Diego State moved between the 20s but penalties short-circuited a number of promising drives.
Fresno State? It’s not certain Fresno State has an offense. The Bulldogs were Chihuahuas when possessing the pigskin. Fresno State finished with 217 total yards – the Bulldogs not only lost because of Pumphrey but they couldn’t out-gain Pumphrey.
But with the Aztecs revving its engine in neutral, the Bulldogs were within a touchdown late in the third quarter. But Pumphrey’s second touchdown of the game, a 13-yard run, posted the final score. Pumphrey’s 2-yard scoring run in the second quarter made it 10-0. This was not a game for drama.
In a tradition and battle cry instituted by former coach Pat Hill Fresno State “plays for the valley” – the San Joaquin Valley. And that’s exactly where the Bulldogs are. The peak of winning the Mountain West Conference title in 2013 is now in a deep, dark valley.
Fresno State has lost 15 of its last 19. The glory days created by former quarterback Derek Carr are long gone. And for coach Tim DeRuyter, the loss to the Aztecs was another page in the referendum regarding his future.
The MWC title and an 11-2 record came in 2013, DeRuyter’s second season after replacing Hill. Since then, though, the Bulldogs are 10-23.
A home field upset of San Diego State would have, could have been a turning point for this season. But instead, it was just another lopsided loss to an FBS foe – Fresno State’s only victory came over FCS Sacramento State.
“When you play a good football team and it’s a one-possession game you have to find a way to make something happen and consequently it’s a tough, bitter loss,” DeRuyter said. “That’s as good a defense as we have faced in conference in my five years. They’re as physical as anyone you’re going to play against.
The announced attendance was 24,731, but the actual crowd was estimated at about 15,000. Too bad more didn’t show up to see Pumphrey’s performance. And it was nice, quick and tidy contest that featured a combined 39 pass attempts and finished in three hours and three minutes.