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FLASHBACK: Rashaad Penny Ignites Some Aztec Fire on the Pac12 in the Arizona Desert By Ken Ables

The Aztecs hit the road this week and head east to Tucson, where they meet the Arizona Wildcats for the first time since 2001. The Wildcats hold a four game win streak, while holding a historical 10-5 advantage over the Aztecs. Though the two teams have not met each other in 20 years exactly. This should never be the case.

Arizona and San Diego teams have long held regional matchup status in the form of professional sports. The Padres vs Diamondbacks have been competing with each other for years, making the two regions incredibly natural foes. The Arizona Wildcats and San Diego State Aztecs hold a solid basketball matchup in place as well.

But the Pac12 for some reason continues to fail when advancing their conferences stronghold on the Western territory states. Far too often there are young recruits choosing to leave outside the Pacific and Mountain time zones. But I digress.

The last time the Aztecs played in the state of Arizona, Rashaad Penny had one of the best games of his record-setting career, at Arizona State in 2017. 

Rashaad Penny runs for a 95 yd touchdown run. Photograph credit: Ernie Anderson

Both teams came into the game with 1-0 records. With temperatures in triple digits at kickoff, and well into the night, the Sun Devils assumed the team from the coast would wilt in the desert heat. They were wrong. Rashaad scored 3 TDs: one on the ground, one through the air and one on a kickoff.

For his first TD, he took a handoff from Christian Chapman at the Aztec 5, outrunning the ASU defense for a 95-yard score.

Penny’s electrifying 99 yard kickoff touchdown return. Photograph credit: Ernie Anderson

After ASU tied the game at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, Rashaad took the ensuing kickoff at the 1 and took it 99 yards to the house for his second TD and a 14-7 Aztec lead.

His third and final TD came on a 33 yard pass from Chapman, including a great fake where he zigged, while the ASU safety zagged. He accounted for 353 all-purpose yards, a total only surpassed by his 429 vs. Nevada later in the season. John Baron II added three FG in the 30-20 Aztec win. 

That win was the second in a row vs. PAC-12 schools (we beat Cal at home in 2016), and the first road win against a PAC member since shutting out Oregon State 25-0 in 1975 (my freshman year at SDSU). It was also the last Aztec road trip my Dad and I made together.

My father Tom, soaking in the big SDSU victory

As we walked from our car to Sun Devil stadium, a group of ASU fans chatted us up a bit, and Dad told them he was there for his 785th Aztec game, and expected a win. The fan said he’d bet us a beer they’d beat us and would be waiting to collect after the game. While neither of us were drinkers, we couldn’t back down from that bet. And, as you might suspect, when we got back to the car after the game, they had already packed up and left.

Since that win vs. Cal in 2016, the Aztecs are 5-2 vs. the Pac-12, including two wins on the road. The Aztecs are also looking to win four straight vs. teams from the state of Arizona.

This is the 16th Aztec-Wildcat game in a series that dates back to 1931. The Aztecs won that initial game in Tucson 8-0 under the lights for the first night game in Aztec history.

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