Penny, SDSU eager to make statement vs. No. 19 Stanford
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) As "opportunity games" go, few will be bigger for star running back Rashaad Penny and the San Diego State Aztecs than Saturday night against No. 19 Stanford.
San Diego State has the city to itself after the NFL's Chargers bolted up the freeway to play in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium in a Los Angeles suburb. The Aztecs beat Arizona State 30-20 last Saturday night to snap a 28-game road losing streak to Pac-12 teams.
Now comes the chance to make a bigger statement, although it'll take an upset to do so.
The win at ASU was "just telling everybody that we can compete with anyone," Penny said. "Just because we're a Mountain West school, a lot of people take us for granted. We kind of showed Saturday that we were the most dominant, physical team and we can play against anybody and match up with anyone because this team has what it takes.
"We're excited because we have another big opportunity this Saturday in playing against a better opponent in Stanford. We can't wait. We're going to keep it rolling."
Stanford (1-1) is looking to bounce back from a 42-24 loss at Southern California in its Pac-12 opener. The Cardinal allowed 307 yards rushing.
"Sometimes you have to be punched in the stomach and see how your team responds," coach David Shaw said. "We have a veteran team that has won a lot of games, bowl games. ... We're still competing. Guys are competing for starting positions and for playing time. We have to bounce back and we look at the positives. A huge improvement has to happen between the last game and this week."
Here are some things to watch for when Stanford visits San Diego State:
PENNY'S STOCK RISING
The senior leads FBS in rushing yards per game, 206.5, and all-purpose yards per game, 284. He went off for 353 all-purpose yards in the win at ASU, including scoring on a 95-yard run, a 99-yard kickoff return and a 33-yard reception.
Penny's 413 yards rushing through two games are the most to open an SDSU season since Marshall Faulk had 519 in his sophomore season of 1992. Penny is 34 yards ahead of D.J. Pumphrey's school-record pace set last season, when he finished with 2,133. Pumphrey set the NCAA's career rushing mark with 6,405 yards.
San Diego State wide receiver Micah Holder is expected to line up against his twin brother, Stanford cornerback Alijah, for the first time. They grew up in Oceanside in northern San Diego County and have never faced each other in a game.
"I have mixed feelings about it," Alijah Holder said. "I've never competed against my brother seriously. I'll be right across the line from him. It's new to me and what a stage. It will be something special. I played in Qualcomm (Stadium) in a high school championship game. Now I'll be playing against my brother there. My mom is loving it. She's making some T-shirts but I can't say what they'll look like. She wants it to be a secret."
Qualcomm's naming rights deal, which was needed in 1997 to bridge a funding gap when the stadium was expanded for the Chargers, has expired.
The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday whether to accept a bid of $500,000 from San Diego County Credit Union to name it SDCCU Stadium. SDCCU is the new title sponsor of the Holiday Bowl. It had sponsored the Poinsettia Bowl, but that game has been ended by the San Diego Bowl Game Association.
Until the Qualcomm deal, the big concrete bowl was called Jack Murphy Stadium. The city wants to close the stadium at the end of 2018.
GROUND AND POUND
The teams expect a tough go with each other.
"They will run right at us," Shaw said. "They're physical. They break tackles and have the speed to hit a crease and go all the way."
Stanford's Bryce Love is the first Cardinal player with 100 yards rushing in each of his first four career starts. He had 160 yards against the Trojans, including a 75-yard TD run.
"They do a lot of similar stuff we do," Penny said. "We like pounding them, we like smashing them down. They're going to play the same way. They're very physical up front. I know they're going to be a great challenge, but this is a big opportunity game for us and San Diego to see that we can really play."
AZTECS VS. PAC-12
Stanford leads the series 3-1. SDSU is 26-79-4 against current members of the Pac-12. The Aztecs beat California 45-40 in San Diego last year. They've won consecutive games against Pac-12 teams for the first time since 1982-83.
AP freelance writer Rick Eymer contributed to this report.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson
Updated September 15, 2017