The Las Vegas Bowl is not known for being one of the “can’t miss” bowl games as it usually falls as one of the first games in the bowl schedule. However, this season’s match up may have one of the best storylines and match ups from any of the on-premier games as Houston takes on San Diego State.
Houston started the season on fire with a convincing upset of Top 10-ranked Oklahoma to open the season. They reeled off five convincing victories to open the season and climbed to #6 in the polls. The media started to look down the schedule as Houston looked like a potential CFB-buster before being upset at home by Navy 46-40 in Week 6 to bring the Cougars to earth. The Cougars still had an opportunity to climb back, but they suffered a letdown against an upstart SMU team 38-16 in Week 8 to take them out of the American Athletic Conference championship race. In the second to last game, they had an unbelievable defensive performance against former #2-ranked Louisville in a “much worse than it looks” 36-10 beat down. Against the Cardinals, the Cougar defense amassed double digit sacks and thoroughly man-handled future Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. The Houston defensive line looked awesome again. Then, they dropped their final game against Memphis in a wild “back and forth” shootout.
San Diego State, on the other hand, flew under the radar. Playing in the usually wild Mountain West, SDSU road their workhorse Donnell Pumphrey. The 5’9”, 175 pound running back was over looked by bigger programs during his high school career in the Las Vegas area, but he found a great opportunity at the same school that produced Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk. Now, he stands on the cusp of NCAA history as ne needs just 108 yards rushing to break former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne’s NCAA career rushing mark.
Dayne, who won the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, rushed for 7,125 yards on 1,220 carries in 47 regular season games with the Badgers from 1996 to 1999. But, the NCAA did not begin including post-season statistics in its official records until 2002 which cost Dayne another 728 yards combined in four Wisconsin bowl appearances.
Nonetheless, the Las Vegas Bowl will have an interesting spread – can the dominating Cougar defensive line stuff Pumphrey and the Aztecs to prevent him from reaching the record? The Cougars will be without their leader Tom Herman who bolted the Cougars’ sidelines to take over at Texas. So, former Longhorn quarterback Major Applewhite begins his head coaching tenure will would love to not only start with a bowl win, but also stuff Pumphrey and deny his place in history.
The Las Vegas Bowl is slated for Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 3:30 PM from Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vega,