With Pumphrey gone, Penny starts cashing in with Aztecs
SAN DIEGO (AP) Rashaad Penny returned to San Diego State for his senior season because he saw how much fun D.J. Pumphrey had during his final season.
Although Penny won’t get anywhere near Pumphrey’s NCAA career rushing record of 6,405 yards, he won’t have any problem in making a name for himself thanks to a rollicking start to the season.
After running for 197 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening victory against FCS UC Davis, Penny went off for 353 all-purpose yards in a 30-20 win at Arizona State .
He scored on a 95-yard run, a 99-yard kickoff return and a 33-yard reception.
Penny leads FBS in rushing yards per game, 206.5, and all-purpose yards per game, 284.
”You only get these chances once,” Penny said. ”I knew my chance was coming later, so that’s why I stayed around. Knowing D.J., he had fun, and I had fun just being behind him, because I was still the second back, I still got carries, I still played. So it was fun and exciting.
”Coming back and being the featured guy is what I wanted, just to show the city of San Diego that I can probably do the same things as D.J. did, and maybe even do them better, because that’s something he wanted, me doing it better.”
San Diego, of course, lost the NFL’s Chargers to Los Angeles. Penny and the Aztecs (2-0) hope to fill the gap. They host No. 19 Stanford (1-1) on Saturday night.
Penny’s 413 yards rushing through two games are the most to open an SDSU season since Marshall Faulk had 519 in his sophomore season of 1992. Penny is 34 yards ahead of Pumphrey’s school-record pace set last season, when he finished with 2,133.
”I thought he showed everybody the kind of ability he has,” coach Rocky Long said. ”Last year he was the backup so nobody got to see that much of him and now they’re getting to see that much of him and they’re seeing how good he is.”
SDSU snapped a 19-game losing streak against Pac-12/10 teams, and ended a 28-game road losing streak to Pac-12/10 squads.
”He was the difference in the game,” Long said. ”I think the two teams were evenly matched except we had him and they didn’t have Rashaad Penny.”
While Pumphrey was garnering all the attention last year, Penny still had a nice season. He rushed for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns, helping SDSU become the first team in FBS history to have a 2,000-yard and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and was named the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year for the second straight season.
On Monday, Penny became the first Aztecs player to be named the Walter Camp National FBS Offensive Player of the Week. He also became the first player in the MWC’s 19-year history to win two of the three weekly awards, for offense and special teams.
”I think my teammates are more excited than I am in getting national recognition,” said Penny, who’s from the Los Angeles suburb of Norwalk. ”I’m taking it slowly. I’ve never been in this situation before so I don’t know what to do or expect. These guys are more excited for me. I’m just thankful to have these guys along the way because these are guys that push me and get me better.”
Penny is 5-foot-11 and 220. Pumphrey, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, is 5-9, 170.
”There’s a big difference in their styles,” Long said. ”D.J. is a darter; Rashaad is a slasher.”
Long said NFL scouts told him last year that had Penny declared for the draft after his junior season, he would have gone higher than any other Aztecs. Guard Nico Siragusa went to Baltimore with the 16th pick in the fourth round and Pumphrey was taken 10 picks later.
What’s it like for Penny when he breaks those long runs?
”You just always think about running past the guy with a different color jersey,” he said. ”And when you’re running, I look at the Megatron all the time just to see whoever’s up there following me. And when I don’t see anybody behind me I start to let it down a little bit.”
He probably meant Jumbotron, but the point is well-taken.
”It’s fun,” he said. ”You’ve got to thank the guys who are blocking for you. You can’t thank them enough because that’s who springs you open. I always tell them it’s a race to the end zone. If it’s a race and you want to win, you’re going to win. That’s how I see it.”
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