Not only is San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey likely the most talented player on the Aztecs' roster, but he has a huge role in the team's success. San Diego State is predominately a running team, and while Pumphrey has a strong number two next to him in Chase Price, it is Pumphrey who has taken the lead role in the running game.
Over the course of the year, Pumphrey has amassed 1,554 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. He also has nearly 400 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. During the team's nine-game winning streak, he had eight games in a row where he topped 100 rushing yards, and possibly his best game was in Hawaii, where he rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
He finally slowed down in their final game against Air Force on December 5th, where Pumphrey was held to 90 yards rushing. It is not a coincidence that their game against Air Force was their closest win during their nine-game winning streak. In the other eight games, the Aztecs outscored their opponent by at least two touchdowns, and scored over 30 points in six straight games. Against Air Force, however, they squeaked out a 27-24 victory.
When teams have been able to stop Pumphrey, they have usually been able to be in position to win. Early in the year, when the Aztecs were 1-3, Pumphrey had three games under 85 yards. Clearly, Pumphrey is pivotal to this team being able to control clock and establish momentum, which makes winning much easier.
Additionally, Pumphrey's success isn't what you would call a one-year wonder. Last year, he scored 20 rushing touchdowns and amassing over 1,800 yards. He was the third best running back in the nation behind Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman. In 2013, he was a backup, but still put together a solid year with over 700 yards and eight touchdowns.
At 5-foot-9, Pumphrey has a small stature, but has consistently put together strong performances in his college years. He hasn't had a fumbling issue this year, either, taking care of the football and only losing two fumbles on the season. If the Bearcasts can find a way to stop him, or even force a turnover out of him, they can limit the effectiveness of this explosive Aztecs offense. If they can do that, they can certainly outscore San Diego State on their way to a Bowl victory on Christmas Eve.
Donnel Pumphrey Sophomore Highlights (2014)