FORT WORTH, Texas — Two of college football’s most dominant rushing attacks will clash when San Diego State faces Army in Saturday’s Armed Forces Bowl — even though the two offenses are dramatically different.
The pro-style offense used by San Diego State (10-2) is led by the top rusher in the Bowl Subdivision, senior Rashaad Penny. The consensus All-American finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting, ran for 2,027 yards and needs 107 more to break the school’s single-season mark set last year by Donnel Pumphrey.
Army (9-3) leads the nation in averaging 368.1 yards rushing per game and is last with 29.6 yards passing using a triple-option formation that chugs methodically downfield. It’s led by senior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw, whose 1,566 yards rushing rank fifth nationally.
In winning the Commander in Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996, the Black Knights attempted no passes against Air Force, one against Navy (complete for 20 yards) and 19 all season. San Diego State offensive coordinator Jeff Horton said his unit was “like an Air Raid team” compared to Army’s grind-it-out, keep-the-ball approach.
“It’s a very difficult scheme to stop with any consistency,” Aztecs coach Rocky Long said of the Black Knights’ option. “We are only going to get the ball five or six times for the entire football game. It’s very unusual, but for a true football fan, it’s going to be very interesting to watch.”
San Diego State is the first FBS program with consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons from different players. Penny could become the fourth player to compile five straight games of 200 yards, and Army coach Jeff Monken knows his defense will need to slow him down.
“He’s proven he’s one of the best players in the nation, if not the best,” Monken said.
Some other things to watch for in Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN) at the home stadium of TCU:
For all the attention on the offenses, both teams have respectable defenses: San Diego State is 11th in the FBS in total defense and Army ranks 35th.
Army ties a school record with a second straight bowl appearance, equaling the 1984-85 teams that were the first in West Point history to accept invitations.
ARMY’S FIELD GENERAL
Bradshaw needs just 22 yards to have the best rushing season at a service academy. Navy’s Napoleon McCallum ran for 1,587 yards in 1983.
Monken, in his fourth season at West Point, has led the Black Knights to three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1988-90. A victory would equal the West Point record for wins in a season, owned by the 1996 team that went 10-2.
“It’s a challenge for us, playing a great team like San Diego State, but exciting to have that opportunity,” Monken said. “It’s something that we’re certainly conscious of.”