SAN DIEGO – The San Diego State University Aztecs have accepted an invitation to play in the 10th annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, 2014 Bowl President Vincent Mudd announced today. The Aztecs will face the U.S. Naval Academy which accepted an invitation following its victory over South Alabama Nov. 28.
It marks the fourth appearance in the San Diego bowl game for the Midshipmen and the third for the Aztecs.
The SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 23 at Qualcomm Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.
The Aztecs finished the regular season 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the West Division of the Mountain West. Navy is currently 6-5 on the year with one game still remaining as the Midshipmen play Army on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 12 noon (PT) in Baltimore in a game that will be televised nationally by CBS.
“This is a fantastic pairing of two teams that are well-known and loved, especially right here in San Diego,” said Mudd. “It sets up to be a great game and we anticipate a fantastic turnout for this 10th anniversary game.”
For San Diego State, Donnel Pumphrey leads a team that has won all seven of its games by double digits this year and is making its fifth consecutive bowl appearance after going to just five bowls over its previous 43 seasons. Pumphrey has set an Aztec sophomore record with 1,755 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 146.2 yards per game and 6.9 yards per carry. Pumphrey, who was on the Doak Walker Award Watch List and was a first-team all-MW selection, heads into the Poinsettia Bowl just 87 yards short of the SDSU single-season school record (George Jones, 1,842 in 1995). Terry Poole (left tackle) was named a second-team all-MW selection, while Darrell Green (right guard) was an honorable mention pick.
The San Diego State defense has been one of the best in the nation this year, ranking 15th in points allowed (20.1), 20th in passing yards allowed (192.0) and 40th in rushing defense (145.6), and going eight straight games keeping its opponent below 400 yards of total offense. Both Aztec cornerbacks – Damontae Kazee (52 tackles, 13 PBU, 1 INT) and J.J. Whittaker (58 tackles, 6 PBU, 2 INT) – were named second-team all-MW, while Calvin Munson (78 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, 4 INT, 2 FF), Josh Gavert (78 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4 PBU), Malik Smith (58 tackles, 7 PBU, 3 INT) and Alex Barrett (39 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) were each honorable-mention selections. SDSU has 68 tackles for loss on the season by 20 different players and 24 sacks by 12 different players.
“Very few teams are going to a fifth straight bowl game and our players have worked hard to get here,” said Aztecs coach Rocky Long. “It shows how successful our program has become.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have gone to several bowls and our fifth-year seniors have been to five straight bowls. We haven’t been to any of them that even match the Poinsettia Bowl in terms of hospitality and things to do. We know how well they treat us. Our players are excited about being home as well so their family and friends can watch them play.”
The Mids have won four of their last five contests and are led by quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Reynolds has rushed for 61 touchdowns in his career, the most in NCAA history by a quarterback and the seventh most by a player at any position. This year, despite missing two games due to injury, he has rushed for 1,082 yards and 20 touchdowns on 205 carries. Senior fullback Noah Copeland is also having a standout campaign, rushing for 859 yards and five touchdowns on 105 carries. Copeland is averaging an incredible 8.2 yards per carry. Navy enters Saturday’s contest leading the country in rushing, averaging a school record 357.8 yards per game.
Defensively, the Mids are led by senior linebacker Jordan Drake and sophomore linebacker Daniel Gonzales. Drake has recorded a team-high 85 tackles and forced two fumbles, while Gonzales has recorded 73 tackles and picked off two passes. Senior safety and co-captain Parrish Gaines leads the Mids in interceptions with three.
Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo (55-35) is one win away from becoming the school’s all-time wins leader.
“I am happy for our young men and our program that we are going back to a bowl game for the 11th time in the last 12 years,” said Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo. “Right now our only focus is to finish out the regular season on the right note by beating Army, but we are thrilled to be going to San Diego.”
Tickets for the 2014 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 1-800-745-3000, or by visiting www.PoinsettiaBowl.com. Fans can also purchase tickets at Qualcomm Stadium, Window B, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.