By Ken Ables (@ka619sd via twitter)
Rashaad Penny had a record-setting career as a running back and kick returner, setting or tying 5 NCAA and 23 Aztec records. He had great games against many teams, but none more than those against the University of Nevada.
In his final game vs. the Wolf Pack in 2017, Rashaad set two Aztec single-game records: 429 all-purpose yards and an incredible 20.8 average yards per carry.
Going into the season, Rashaad already held the Aztec record for kick returns for a touchdown with five and added a sixth with a 99-yarder vs. Arizona State earlier in the season. But he had never returned a punt.
When a first quarter Nevada drive stalled, Rashaad took the field for his first career punt return. The result? A 70-yard touchdown – not a bad per-punt-return average!
And, for good measure, he returned a fourth quarter Wolf Pack kickoff 100 yards for his seventh kickoff return touchdown of his career. That touchdown tied the NCAA records for touchdowns by kickoff return (7) and kicks (8, including his punt return).
A year earlier, on a chilly night in Reno, the Aztecs gained 474 yards on the ground led by Rashaad’s 208, plus 198 from DJ Pumphrey and 70 from Juwan Washington. He scored two rushing touchdowns and caught two passes for 20 yards.
The Wolf Pack were smart enough to aim their kickoffs to Juwan, who returned two for 29 yards. For the season, DJ rushed for 2,133 yards on his way to setting the NCAA career rushing record, and Rashaad gained 1,018. The 2016 Aztecs remain the only team in NCAA history with a 2,000 and 1,000 yard rusher.
Rashaad’s four-game total vs. Nevada:
- 472 rushing yards
- 259 kickoff return yards
- 70 punt return yards
- 54 receiving yards
- 855 all-purpose yards
- 7 touchdowns
Rashaad Penny set the bar high for special teams excellence, earning Special Teams Player of the Year three times (and Offensive POY in his senior season). The 2021 Aztecs have continued that tradition, scoring four touchdowns so far this year. And, of course, the best punter in America – at any level – is an Aztec.
Kickoff is at 7:30 Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park. If you only go to one game this year, this is the one you need to attend. If you can’t make it to Carson, watch it on CBS Sports or listen to Ted Leitner and Rich Ohrnberger on 1360.