SDSU's Penny clashes with Army's option in Armed Forces Bowl
Dec. 22, 2017
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Two of college football's most dominant rushing attacks will clash when San Diego State faces Army in Saturday's Armed Forces Bowl — even though the offenses are dramatically different.
The pro-style offense used by San Diego State (10-2) is led by the top rusher in the Bowl Subdivision, senior Rashaad Penny. The consensus All-American finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting, ran for 2,027 yards and needs 107 more to break the school's single-season mark set last year by Donnel Pumphrey.
Army (9-3) leads the nation in averaging 368.1 yards rushing per game and is last with 29.6 yards passing using an option formation that chugs methodically downfield. It's led by senior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw, whose 1,566 yards rushing rank fifth nationally.
In winning the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1996, the Black Knights attempted no passes against Air Force, one against Navy (complete for 20 yards) and 19 all season. San Diego State offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said his unit was "like an Air Raid team" compared to Army's grind-it-out, keep-the-ball approach.
"It's a very difficult scheme to stop with any consistency," Aztecs coach Rocky Long said of the Black Knights' option. "We are only going to get the ball five or six times for the entire football game. It's very unusual, but for a true football fan, it's going to be very interesting to watch."
San Diego State is the first FBS program with consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons from different players. Penny could become the fourth player to compile five straight games of 200 yards, and Army coach Jeff Monken knows his defense will need to slow him down.
"He's proven he's one of the best players in the nation, if not the best," Monken said.
Some other things to watch for in Saturday's game at the home stadium of TCU:
For all the attention on the offenses, both teams have respectable defenses: San Diego State is 11th in the FBS in total defense and Army ranks 35th.
San Diego State's 6-0 start included wins over Stanford and Arizona State. Then the Aztecs lost at home to Boise State and Fresno State, realistically ending their chances of winning a third consecutive Mountain West championship, and have since won four straight. SDSU is playing in its eighth consecutive bowl, the last seven under Long. The program appeared in eight total bowls prior to this streak. Army ties a school record with a second straight bowl appearance, equaling the 1984-85 teams that were the first in West Point history to accept invitations.
Aztecs senior right guard Antonio Rosales injured his left ankle early this season and hasn't played since mid-October. Long said he plans to start Rosales in his final college game and see how long he can play in trying to open holes for Penny.
ARMY'S FIELD GENERAL
Bradshaw needs just 22 yards to have the best rushing season at a service academy. Navy's Napoleon McCallum ran for 1,587 yards in 1983.
San Diego State is seeking 11 wins for the third consecutive season. The only other FBS schools to achieve that during the 2015-17 seasons are Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma. ... Monken, in his fourth season at West Point, has led the Black Knights to three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1988-90. A victory would equal the West Point record for wins in a season, owned by the 1996 team that went 10-2.
"It's a challenge for us, playing a great team like San Diego State, but exciting to have that opportunity," Monken said. "It's something that we're certainly conscious of."
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_Top25