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The Sun Devils come up a penny short against San Diego State

Rashaad Penny had more than enough change in his piggy bank when he carved up the Sun Devil defense


SDSU senior running back Rashaad Penny (20) blows past ASU defenders in football game at  Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. ASU lost to SDSU 30-20. 

The penny is the least valuable of legal currency in the U.S., but on Saturday night, one Penny's value was unmatched.

This has nothing to do with actual money, but everything to do with senior San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who was the main culprit in ASU's (1-1) 30-20 loss.

Penny racked up yards all over the field. He finished with 216 rushing yards, 38 receiving yards and 99 return yards, all of which added up to 353 total yards.

If that wasn't enough, Penny supplemented his yardage with three touchdowns, one on the ground, one through the air and one from a kickoff return.

Penny dominated the ASU defense. There's really no other way to say it. Whether he was slashing it inside, or bouncing toward the outside, Penny found open running lanes all game.

It should be no surprise that the senior averaged 12 yards a carry, even if that does seem like an impressive number. 

"We kept saying all week, they haven't seen a team like us in a long time," Penny said. "We broke them down, we did what we were supposed to do tonight, and it happened."

San Diego State (2-0) runs a pro-style offense, where the quarterback lines up under center and the running back follows a lead blocker. That strategy worked well for the Aztecs, as they broke down ASU early, starting with a 95-yard rushing touchdown from Penny. 

It was third and six and SDSU was in the shadow of its own goalpost. The Sun Devils had pinned them back and were hoping to get off the field.

But Penny had different plans.

He burst past defensive linemen in the backfield, slipped off an ASU defender at the line of scrimmage then zoomed past two more Sun Devils until he had nothing but green grass ahead.

"The confidence level went up extremely," Penny said. "Because you see all the guys saying, 'We can play with them.' Just because this is the Pac-12 doesn't mean that we're holding out."

That long rushing score gave SDSU a 7-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first quarter. From there, the Aztecs controlled the game and never found themselves in a deficit.

SDSU continued to feed Penny, who paid them back by picking up chunk yardage every time he touched the ball. And like any running back, Penny was aided by his offensive line, who gave him plenty of room to roam.

But SDSU head coach thought a big chunk of Penny's success was independent of his blockers in front of him.

"They were better than they were last week," SDSU head coach Rocky Long said. "We have young guys in our offensive line that are very, very talented, but they are very young in technique work and they make assignment errors."

"They are lucky they have a running back as good as Rashaad Penny behind them, because there were several times there were guys not blocked and Rashaad ran right by them," Long said.

Even when his teammates made mistakes, Penny still had success. He was on another level on Saturday night, something ASU head coach Todd Graham experienced first hand.

"We did a very, very poor job. We did a poor job of coaching and a poor job of executing and playing," Graham said.

That's one way to say it, especially when Penny (353) had more total yards than ASU did as a team (342).  

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