Billed as a contrast of styles, it was San Diego State’s defense that was able to wrangle Cincinnati’s high-powered offense, as the Aztecs cruised to a 42-7 win over the Bearcats in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl on Thursday.
Rashaad Penny got the Aztecs, winners of 10 straight, on the board by returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score, and the Mountain West champs never looked back in Honolulu.
What the win means for the Aztecs: Coming into the game, San Diego State already was sitting on 10 wins -- the first time it has won double-digit games since 1977. The victory gives them their first 11-win season since the Don Coryell era in 1969. San Diego State is the first team since 1986 to start the season at 1-3 or worse and then go on to win the rest of its games.
What the loss means for the Bearcats: This probably isn’t going to set the Bearcats back too much, but it certainly wasn’t the performance for which they were hoping. Turnovers and special-teams gaffes (giving up a 100-yard kickoff and field goal issues) didn’t help. As always, losing a bowl game will be met with some self-evaluation before shaking it off and heading into the recruiting push. Head coach Tommy Tuberville is also reportedly in talks for a contract extension.
How the game was won: The Aztecs, who boast the No. 1 defense among all Group of 5 teams, forced turnovers and kept the pressure on Moore. They turned three interceptions into 14 points and limited the Bearcats to just 279 total yards, while forcing four sacks and six tackles for a loss. Offensively, the Aztecs pounded away with Pumphrey and Chapman -- who despite not being asked to do much in the way of throwing the football was very clean and efficient when he did.
Game ball goes to: How about a little love for San Diego State fullback Dakota Gordon? Coming into the game with two career touchdowns, the former walk-on rushed for a score and caught another one. It was Pumphrey, the guy Gordon opens up holes for, who threw a 16-yard touchdown to Gordon on a halfback pass. Gordon finished with four catches for 58 yards and three carries for seven yards.