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SDSU vs. ASU: Rashaad Penny’s dominance dooms Sun Devils

Penny, for your thoughts

NCAA Football: San Diego State at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an old adage that says, take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.

Someone should have told that to the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Instead of taking care of Rashaad Penny, the senior running back took care of his own business at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday night, leading his San Diego State Aztecs to a 30-20 victory.

Penny rushed for a career-high 216 yards, added another 38 through the air, and scored all three of San Diego State’s touchdowns.

Earlier this week, Penny took exception to ASU senior SPUR J’Marcus Rhodes saying the Sun Devils would “dominate” the Aztecs.

Saturday, he made it known just how ridiculous he thought Rhodes was.

Appropriately, Penny opened the scoring with a 95-yard touchdown run through the heart of ASU’s defense, nearly untouched.

Starting at their own 1-yard line, the Aztecs came into the drive confident they would score after doing the same a week ago and Penny made the most of a stretch play that opened the field for him.

“We went outside and I was one-on-one with a safety and that’s what I love,” Penny said. “That’s on us to make that play obviously it went yard.”

The Sun Devils evened the score at the end of the first quarter and Penny would not stand for that. On the ensuing kickoff, he fielded the ball at his own 1-yard line and didn’t stop until he was across the Sun Devil goal line for a lead the Aztecs would never relinquish.

“The kick return, he has great feel for that,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long said. “Plus the kick off return team did unbelievable job blocking them and he just outran them.”

The long return was part of a systemic problem for the Sun Devil special teams unit that left ASU head coach Todd Graham annoyed.

“He’s a good returner and all that,” Graham said. “But you’re going to play against good returners.”

Up 20-14 late in the third quarter, the Aztecs needed a jolt of momentum to get them to the finish line facing a third down and 16 on the edge of field goal range.

That’s when Penny made his final, and possibly most crucial, contribution to the SDSU cause. Junior quarterback Christian Chapman, in the face of the Sun Devil pass rush, found Penny all alone on the left side on the field and he took it in to essentially ice the game.

This came on the heels of a failed fourth down conversion attempt by ASU, generating a possible 14-point swing that sent the Sun Devils reeling.

“I felt like they thought they had us on the ropes,” Penny said. “We practice that play all the time and kind of knew it was coming.”

Long said this coming-out party was expected by the Aztecs, Penny just needed his chance to shine on a big stage, and he took advantage of it.

“We think he is one of the best running backs in the country,” Long said. “He had a great year last year, but didn’t carry it as much because the guy in front of him set the all time NCAA record for rushing. What you are seeing you are just seeing more of him.”

With Penny’s run, the lead ballooned to 27-14 and the air deflated out of a Sun Devil Stadium. There was over a quarter of football remaining, but Penny’s dominance alongside ASU’s struggles kept the Sun Devils at arm’s length while he and sophomore Juwan Washington sent SDSU home happy.

In all, Penny’s 254 offensive yards made up 72 percent of San Diego State’s production, taking care of not only the pounds, but his teammates too.