Las Vegas Bowl: San Diego State 34, Houston 10. 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?
San Diego State rolled past Houston 34-10 in the Las Vegas Bowl for a great win for the Mountain West. What does is all mean? What are the five things that matter?
Uhhhhh, Major Applewhite?
The transition was supposed to be seamless. Tom Herman is off to Texas, and Major Applewhite was supposed to step right in and the Cougars were supposed to rock. All looked fine with a 10-0 start, and then the San Diego State defense took over.
The Aztec defense had the talent and the experience, and against the Cougars, it had the run-stuffing attitude to allow a mere 25 yards and a score – QB Greg Ward had the only run of more than ten yards.
And now the pressure and spotlight will be on Applewhite after his first stint as a head coach became an epic fail.
The offense didn’t work, and fell flat, and while the defense was fantastic – it allowed just 255 yards – it couldn’t overcome the four interceptions from Ward. And now the offseason motivation will be there for The Major to show that this was just a fluke.
DONNEL PUMPHREY IS NOT THE NCAA’S ALL-TIME LEADING RUSHER
And it does a disservice to all of his accomplishments to suggest otherwise.
Ron Dayne is still college football’s D-I all-time leading rusher, and Tony Dorsett is No. 2. We have the stats. We know that Ron Dayne actually ran for 7,125 yards and Tony Dorsett ran for 6,526, but the NCAA didn’t include bowl stats until 2002, and for some strange reason, they haven’t adjusted. So, everyone’s going with this delusional narrative because it seems fun, and it’s not fair to Pumphrey.
It’s amazing that Pumphrey was able to run for 6,405 yards and finish his career as the third-leading rusher of all-time. It’s an incredible, incredible career, but he’s nowhere near Dayne and still well behind Dorsett.
Even so, it was a great game for Pumphrey as the only offensive playmaker who did anything. The two teams combined for 509 yards of total offense, and Pumphrey had 141 of them, with 115 yards and a score on the ground, and came up with a key catch for 26 yards.
One of college football’s all-time greats, he closed out with a brilliant performance and a huge win for both San Diego State and …
The Mountain West
In terms of national perspective and how everyone views conferences, this was a really, really big deal.
All year long, Houston was given respect and credit for crushing Florida State in the bowl season, and now, the Mountain West starts out the bowl season with a New Mexico Bowl win – New Mexico over UTSA – and a Las Vegas Bowl victory with its champion coming through big.
This was the run defense we were all waiting for. This was the performance from the Aztecs that was missing at times over the second half of the season. 11-3 and with two straight Mountain West titles, the Aztecs have replaced Boise State as the star of the conference. Or, at the very least, they’ve shown just how good the league really is.
What’s next for San Diego State in 2017?
Can the Aztecs make it three Mountain West titles in a row? It’s going to be even more of a fight.
You’re not going to get any better after losing the NCAA’s third all-time leading rusher, but Rashaad Penny is good enough and fast enough to take over for Pumphrey and keep the running game going. As head coach Rocky Long has proven, he can crank up the ground attack no matter what.
Losing guard Nico Siragusa might be a bigger problem – four offensive linemen are finished. QB Christian Chapman is back, but the offense needs to find more explosive receivers.
Long’s tremendous defense has to replace Alex Barrett up front, Calvin Munson from the linebacking corps, and Damontae Kazee at corner – those are three massive losses. Six starters are back on D, and there’s good depth, but it’ll take some adjusting.
What’s next for Houston in 2017?
Major Applewhite might be losing QB Greg Ward, but the rest of his offense should be fantastic with eight starters back. RB Duke Catalon should roll behind a line that gets back all five starters, and there’s more pop and explosion in a deep backfield and receiving corps. Now the Cougars need someone to take over the quarterback gig.
All-everything freshman Ed Oliver will be the star of stars at one defensive tackle spot to start the season, but losing LB Steven Taylor is a killer. Seven starters return overall to a defense that was dominant throughout the year, including the bowl loss, but coordinator Todd Orlando is off to help out Tom Herman at Texas.