The San Diego State defense and running back Rashaad Penny helped deliver an upset as No. 19 Stanford football (1-2) lost 20-17 to the Aztecs (3-0) on Saturday night in Qualcomm Stadium.
When the lights went out in the stadium with four minutes remaining, Stanford was leading the Aztecs 17-13.
When the lights came back about 25 minutes later, San Diego State offense was the only one ready to start playing again. The Aztecs would score six plays later to give them the lead for good.
Both defenses had something to prove to begin the game, and this combination meant that no points went up until the second quarter, when San Diego State kicker John Baron converted a 43-yard field goal.
Not to be deterred, Stanford responded within two minutes. Junior running back Bryce Love made it look easy and scored Stanford’s first touchdown of the game with a 51-yard run that had Stanford fans asking, “Christian McCaffrey who?” for the umpteen time this season.
Right before halftime, senior quarterback Keller Chryst caused the first Stanford turnover in six games—an interception by San Diego State. It was only then that the Aztecs scored their first touchdown of the game, a four-yard run by Rashaad Penny.
An Aztecs field goal in the beginning of the third quarter brought San Diego State’s lead to 13-7. Stanford followed with a 20-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Jet Toner in the middle of the quarter, making it 13-10.
Nine seconds into the fourth quarter, Bryce Love proved his power once again, bringing in a 53-yard touchdown to give the Cardinal their first lead of the second half at 17-13.
With 54 seconds left in the game, San Diego State called a play action pass that led to a touchdown reception by Aztecs tight end David Wells to give the Aztecs a 20-17 lead.
Needing a field goal to tie the game, Chryst heaved a poorly-thrown deep ball on the first play which was intercepted by Aztecs cornerback Kameron Kelly.
Stanford head coach David Shaw couldn’t do anything but let the clock run out as fans began to pile onto the field.
For all the hype for this game that focused on the offense, this game was determined by the defenses, in part shown by Stanford’s inability to convert on third down.
Despite Penny trying his best to be a playmaker, Stanford’s defense was prepared, holding San Diego State to 7-of-17 third downs and keeping Penny from making breakaway plays until the second half. It also applied pressure on San Diego State quarterback Christian Chapman by sacking him six times.
Sacks by defensive linemen senior Harrison Phillips and fifth-year senior Eric Cotton, only added to the defensive dominance, especially since San Diego State struggled when playing behind the sticks.
Given the explosive nature of both teams’ rush attacks, Love had 184 yards and Penny had 175, that the score isn’t higher speaks to the defense more than the offense.
Chryst’s performance, which amounted to a 45 percent completion rate, might have left some thinking, “Was Ryan Burns really worse than this?” The answer to that is unclear, but to Chryst’s credit, he also struggled with an offensive line that allowed a lot of pressure, including a blindside sack in the first half. Regardless, Shaw must’ve considered something along those lines—or just wanted to throw the defense off—putting Burns in the game for a couple of individual plays.
Nonetheless, in the end, this game showed that while Stanford has a solid defense-particularly the linemen- and great running backs in Love and Cameron Scarlett, they need to work on the rest of its offense, namely the quarterback situation and the offensive line protecting him.
Stanford will head home for the first game in Stanford Stadium when it plays No. 25 UCLA (2-1) on Sept. 23.
Contact Ariana Rollins at arianar ‘at’ stanford.edu.