San Diego State beats Cincinnati 42-7 in Hawaii Bowl
HONOLULU (AP) San Diego State fullback Dakota Gordon does a lot more than just block for the Aztecs. He showed it in the Hawaii Bowl and ended up with the most valuable player award.
Gordon caught a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help San Diego State rout Cincinnati 42-7 on Thursday before a sparse crowd of 14,537 at Aloha Stadium.
''The fact that I won this just blows my mind,'' Gordon said. ''I was just thankful to come out here, play my hardest and in the end it paid off and they awarded me this award. Fullbacks don't get all the glory sometimes, but I don't know, I was just excited that Coach called my name and he gave me an opportunity to make plays and I went out there and gave it my all.''
The Aztecs (11-3) won their final 10 games to match the longest winning streak in school history.
San Diego State rushed for 207 yards, topping the 200-yard mark for the 10th consecutive game, and finished with 336 yards of total offense.
Donnell Pumphrey, the Mountain West offensive player of the year, had 99 yards on 25 carries. He threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Gordon and had a 1-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter. Gordon also had a 1-yard run and finished with four catches for 58 yards.
Pumphrey finished the season with 1,653 rushing yards and Chase Price had 1,008 to become the first Aztecs teammates to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
San Diego State coach Rocky Long said Gordon played a key role in their success.
''He does a lot of things and does not get recognized for it,'' Long said. ''Everyone is patting (Pumphrey) and (Price) on the back, but they forget the little guy in the backfield blocking for those guys and he's the guy. He's done that all year long and some people don't even know his name, (but) Pumphrey and Chase Price know who he is, I promise you that.''
Rashaad Penny, the Mountain West special teams player of the year, returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown Penny had his third kickoff return for a score this season - and second 100-yarder - and broke the Hawaii bowl record for the longest return.
''I think college football is based on momentum and when you return the opening kickoff for a touchdown the momentum goes to your sideline real quick and we just built on that,'' Long said. ''I think both teams came into the game wondering how things were going to go and then all of a sudden we return the kickoff and our sideline knew exactly how it was going to go and their sideline starting wondering.''
Cincinnati finished 7-5.
Redshirt freshman Christian Chapman made his second straight start with starter Maxwell Smith out with a knee injury. Chapman threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Mikah Holder to cap an 85-yard, nine-play drive on San Diego State's first offensive possession.
Chapman was 8 of 11 for 113 yards and did not have an interception.
The Aztecs led 14-0 after the first quarter, the ninth time this season they held an opponent scoreless in the opening quarter.
Cornerback Damontae Kazee had his eighth interception of the season to set up Pumphrey's 33-yard halfback-option pass to Gordon, with the fullback bouncing off a defender before crossing the plane of the end zone. That made it 21-0 late in the first half.
Cincinnati turned it over on downs midway through the third quarter when it attempted and failed a fake field goal, which gave the Aztecs possession at their 33. Eight plays later, Gordon found the end zone on his 1-yard plunge.
Pumphrey capped an 11-play, 85-yard drive that took nearly 7 minutes off the clock early in the fourth quarter to make it 35-0.
Defensive lineman Alex Barrett had the third interception of Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore minutes later and returned it 43 yards for a score with 9:04 to play.
Moore, a redshirt freshman, made his third career start in place of junior Gunner Kiel, who did not make the trip because of undisclosed personal reasons. Moore was 19 of 30 for 202 yards.
The Bearcats finally got on the board on Mike Boone's 1-yard run with 3:21 remaining.
Cincinnati's Max Morrison had seven catches for 84 yards.
Cincinnati entered the game ranked first nationally in passing yards per game (373.1) and total offense (559.4). It was held to 279 yards in the loss.
''We got off to a bad start,'' Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville said. ''We work so hard on special teams and we pride ourselves on special teams. We knew we were going to struggle on offense and hopefully we were going to get a few turnovers on defense and we didn't do that. We were a finesse team this year, played a lot of good games but this was a night we just didn't play very well.''
It was the largest margin of victory in the 14-year history of the Hawaii Bowl.