At Tuesday’s weekly on-campus press conference, SDSU football coach Rocky Long stated that the top four running backs on the team’s depth chart will see action in Saturday’s non-conference season opener against the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks at Qualcomm Stadium.
The SDSU depth chart at the position, through last Friday, lists returners Donnel Pumphrey and Chase Price at the top, followed by newcomers Marcus Stamps, Lucky Radley and Rashaad Penny.
Junior Paul Sierra, a 2011 graduate of Castle Park High School, could be in the mix along with newcomer William Walker as the team’s depth chart is updated.
“I’m not saying that all four will carry the ball, but all four will be in there,” Long said. “Each one has a different strength from the other. Some are good pass-blockers and some can play the screen better than others.”
Sierra, who joined the Aztecs as a walk-on in the spring of 2012, received a lot of playing time in the team’s Aztec Fan Fest intra-squad scrimmage Aug. 16. The former Trojan carried the ball 14 times for 15 yards while also making one catch for 18 yards.
Kene Anigbogu, a redshirt sophomore from Southwestern College, made two catches for 19 yards while former Mater Dei Catholic lineman Nico Siragusa also received playing time in the intra-squad scrimmage at Qualcomm Stadium.
Long, mindful of last year’s 40-19 upset loss to Eastern Illinois in the Aztecs’ season opener, said his team cannot look past NAU.
“As a coach, I’m pretty nervous about the game because we were in the same situation last year playing an (FCS) team,” the SDSU coach noted. “(Northern Arizona) is good enough to beat us.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 4 p.m.
Instant Replay: SDSU 38, Northern Arizona University 7
By Star-News/Aztec blogger Peter Kluch
A video tribute to the late Tony Gwynn, followed by 19 seconds of silence and the national anthem, preceded Saturday's SDSU-NAU game at Qualcomm Stadium.
In another tribute to the former SDSU legend, Gwynn’s wife, Alicia, received the honor usually reserved for the Aztec Warrior by planting the spear into the turf prior to kick-off.
The Aztecs' passing game was mostly ineffectual early in the game, with sophomore Donnel Pumphrey (19 carries, 116 yards) providing most of SDSU's early offensive yards via the rushing game. Pumphrey scored twice in the Aztecs' 38-7 win over the Lumberjacks. Of note, SDSU improved to 6-1 when Pumphrey scores at least one touchdown in a game.
SDSU's first scoring drive went 63 yards, with Pumphrey scoring on a one-yard run.
Chase Price scored the Aztecs' next TD on another one-yard run. It was his second career touchdown, his first coming against Hawaii in 2012. Price (21 yards) and Lloyd Mills (33 yards) ripped off big runs earlier in the drive.
SDSU scored on a 48-yard field goal by Donald Hageman early in the second quarter to extend the Aztec lead to 17-0. It was the longest field goal by a SDSU kicker since 2010 and a record for Hageman, whose previous longest kick was 47 yards.
Hageman later missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.
Tight end Robert Craighead put the hosts up 24-0 when he caught a two-yard scoring pass from quarterback Quinn Kaehler (18-of-29 for 205 yards) with 29 seconds left in the first half. It was the first career TD for Craighead, a graduate of El Capitan High School.
A great defensive play set up SDSU's fourth touchdown of the game as Calvin Munson returned an intercepted pass 64 yards to the one-yard line to set up a scoring plunge over the middle by Pumphrey, who went over the 100-yard mark for the game.
It was the 20th time in school history that a running back had rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. It was Pumphrey's second career game with more than one rushing TD in one game.
Mills completed SDSU's scoring barrage with a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown with 13:41 remaining in the game.
Final score: Aztecs 38, Lumberjacks 7
It was the second consecutive game that SDSU held an opponent to zero points at end of first quarter, the last time being in last December's Idaho Potato Bowl.
Eleven Aztec players made their first career start in the game against NAU.
Alex Barrett blocked a NAU field goal attempt at the start of the second quarter. It was the first career start on D-line for Barrett and his first career block.
Kaehler was intercepted in the third quarter by NAU's Eddie Horn for the first turnover of the game.
Casey Jahn scored the Lumberjack's lone touchdown of the game on a one-yard run with 6:36 left in the third quarter to make the score 24-7 in the Aztecs' favor.
The Aztecs accumulated 38 first down to NAU's seven first downs and collected 399 yards in net offense, including 194 rushing yards and 205 passing yards. The Aztec defense gave up 312 total net yards to the Lumberjacks (124 rushing yards and 188 passing yards) but allowed only one touchdown on the scoreboard.