LAS VEGAS (AP) — Rashaad Penny isn’t from Las Vegas, but he plays with a lot of guys who are. He knew how emotional Saturday’s game against UNLV was going to be and was determined to relay that on the field for No. 19 San Diego State.
Donning “Vegas Strong” eye black, Penny ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Aztecs over UNLV 41-10 on Saturday night.
It was the Rebels’ first game since the mass shooting that killed 58 people on the Las Vegas Strip this week. First responders released balloons from the field during a moment of silence before the game.
“I’m still emotional about it,” Penny said. “I played emotional tonight because it doesn’t matter where it happens. It’s still in America. For a man to take that so many lives like that, it hurt.”
Penny recorded his sixth straight 100-yard game to open the season, and the Aztecs (6-0, 2-0 Mountain West) defeated UNLV (2-3, 1-1) for the 13th time in their last 16 meetings.
He didn’t get off to an ideal start, however. Penny fumbled on the game’s opening possession, leaving opportunities for UNLV to stay in the game. The Rebels trailed 20-10 at halftime, but couldn’t garner anything offensively in the second half.
One week after accounting for 287 total yards and four touchdowns against San Jose State, UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers completed 12 of 27 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown.
“Obviously, an extremely disappointing outcome to the game,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “A lot of people are dealing with a lot of stuff right now, but you still have to be mature and go play a football game. San Diego State is a good football team, but we had plenty of opportunities.”
Juwan Washington added 95 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown for the Aztecs, who have won 27 of their last 30 games.
SDSU’s Christian Chapman threw for 172 yards and had a 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Aztecs out gained UNLV 302-106 on the ground.
“They are a good defensive front,” Sanchez said. “When you are sitting there with your first and second down and not doing really well, only getting two, three yards, you’re forcing yourself into those pass situations, and we don’t want to be in that.”
San Diego State: It had been almost a month since the Aztecs had a comfortable margin of victory. After back-to-back one-possession wins against Air Force and Northern Illinois, the ground-and-pound attack has SDSU aiming for a New Year’s Six spot. The Aztecs are pleased with becoming bowl eligible, but realize there’s a lot left to do.
“We know the sixth game always signifies bowl eligibility, but coming into this game, we were more focused on the tragedy than anything,” Penny said. “We didn’t even talk about being bowl eligible. We take each and every week with a different mindset, and that’s something we have to focus on.
UNLV: The Rebels’ calling card has been the running game, but Lexington Thomas was held to 54 yards on 14 carries, forcing Rogers to throw more than usual. San Diego State’s defense was ready for that.
San Diego State: The Aztecs will host to Boise State on Oct. 14 in a potential Mountain West Conference championship preview.
UNLV: The Rebels head to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the first time since November 2013 to take on Air Force.