Dec. 23 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Navy 17, San Diego State 16
And You Care Because … Austin Grebe hit a 24-yard field goal with 1:27 to play to give Navy a 17-16 lead, and San Diego State couldn’t respond as Donny Hageman missed a 34-yard field goal in the final seconds. It wasn’t pretty with seven turnovers combined between the two teams, but it got interesting late as Hageman hit a 30-yarder in the third quarter for an Aztec lead following a Navy six-yard touchdown from Keenan Reynolds, but SDSU settled for too many field goal attempts – Hageman also hit from 43 and 37. Navy took an early lead on a one-yard Reynolds run, but SDSU scored the next 13 points starting with a five-yard Donnel Pumphrey run. That would be the only touchdown of the day for the Aztecs.
What Else? Navy rushing: 58 times for 254 yards, 2 TD – SDSU 33 times for 186 yards, 1 TD
- Navy QB Keenan Reynolds ran 19 times for nine yards and two scores, and completed 3-of-7 passes for 17 yards
- San Diego State QB Quinn Kaehler completed 11-of-27 passes for 141 yards and two picks
- Turnovers: Navy 4 – San Diego State 3
Game Rating: C+
By Pete Fiutak
1. Seriously? We paid for two running games, and we want our running games.
In a bowl game like this, the two running games were supposed to help keep the errors and bad plays to a minimum and make this a consistent, well-played slugfest.
As expected, the San Diego State defense was terrific against Keenan Reynolds – coming up with stop after stop of the Navy quarterback – but not as expected, the Aztec offense didn’t dominate with Donnel Pumphrey. He was okay with 112 yards and a score, and the offense averaged 5.6 yards per carry, but turnovers and a lousy game from QB Quinn Kaehler led to too many problems and too many missed opportunities. Meanwhile, Navy, running the ball – that’s what you do.
It was sloppy, it was lousy, it was bad football that will be remembered – if it’s remembered – for a sloppy, lousy end with more mistakes and screwed up chances.
But Navy closed out strong with its fourth straight win and its sixth in seven games, and no matter how it happened, and no matter how it looked, the team got the job done. Even it wasn’t wasn’t a pretty watch.
By Rich Cirminiello
2. Fitting for this game to end on a poorly executed field goal attempt.
On a night when neither San Diego State nor Navy played well enough to win, trading gaffes and fumbles in the final quarter, it was poetic that a chip-shot from reliable Aztec PK Donny Hageman stayed to the right of the goal post in the waning seconds.
In the end, the Midshipmen ground game wore down the Aztecs for the victory, particularly on their final drive, which ended on a 24-yard Austin Grebe three-pointer. And isn’t that what makes the option so special and difficult to defend? You can put a cork in it for only so long, before a gassed defense is unable to slow it down. In the game-winning drive, Chris Swain and Ryan Williams-Jenkins gashed the D between the tackles, offsetting everything the San Diego State defense had accomplished through the first three quarters.
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3. Sometimes games are won, and sometimes they are given away. There is absolutely no doubt that the Aztecs lost this game despite Navy providing them with every opportunity to commit grand larceny at the end. The Midshipmen came out in the giving Christmas spirit with four turnovers, untimely penalties, and a huge busted play on third down to settle for a field goal with the clock running down late in the fourth quarter.
But San Diego State paid it forward with holiday cheer of its own with three turnovers, and left too many points on the field by settling for field goals instead of touchdowns in the red zone. Despite the sloppy play, the game was a wildly entertaining throwback affair that ended fittingly with yet another mistake, a missed 34-yard field goal by the Aztecs that resulted in Navy backing into a bowl-win.
4. What’s next for San Diego State
The running game should keep on rocking and rolling with Donnel Pumphrey back leading a deep and talented backfield, but quarterback Quinn Kaehler has to be replaced. Left tackle Terry Poole is the only loss on the strong offensive line that should pave the way for another huge year for Pumphrey. The receiving corps loses Ezell Ruffin, but four of the top five targets are back.
Two starters return to the defensive front three including veteran end Jon Sanchez and tackle Christian Heyward. The linebacking corps loses key tacklers Cody Galea and Josh Gavert, but Calvin Munson is back after leading the team. The secondary loses corner J.J. Whitaker, but it returns loaded with four starters back including safety Trey Lomas and rising Warrior Malik Smith. Veteran punter Joel Alesi is done, but kicker Donny Hageman returns.
5. What’s next for Navy
The Midshipmen were loaded with experience coming into the year, and it gets back quarterback Keenan Reynolds to what should be another humongous statistical season. Fullback Noah Copeland will be missed, but Chris Swain brings some experience – and about 30 more pounds – to the position. Three starters are gone on the O line, and backs Geoffrey Whiteside and Ryan Williams-Jenkins are finished, but the backfield is still loaded. Leading receiver Jamir Tillman returns after catching 20 of the team’s 59 receptions.
Leading tackler Jordan Drake is gone, but it’s still a strong-looking defense with Bernard Sarra and Will Anthony returning to the defensive front and corners Brendon Clements and Quincy Adams are back. Safeties George Jamison and Parrish Gaines will be sorely missed, and linebackers Chris Johnson and Obi Uzoma are gone, along with Drake, but there’s depth. Kicker Austin Grebe is back, but punter Pablo Beltran is gone.
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