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by Christopher Mohr


December 25, 2010 (San Diego) - The San Diego State University Aztecs won a bowl game for the first time in 41 years with a 35-14 victory over the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Thursday night (12/23) at Qualcomm Stadium. Ronnie Hillman scored four touchdowns and rushed for 228 yards to lead the offense.

That the game even took place as scheduled was nothing short of a miracle. Flooding from recent storms submerged the field in water up to two feet deep in some places 24 hours before the game.


Stadium crews worked late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning to pump out 1.5 million gallons of water and paint lines on the field in time for the game. On some plays, the wet conditions caused players to slip, but considering that the field was submerged the day before, the footing wasn't bad overall.

The Aztecs' offense did not suffer from bad footing in the first quarter. Ryan Lindley (El Capitan H.S. class of 2007) connected with Vincent Brown six times for 143 yards and one touchdown. Brown's receiving yardage in the first quarter alone was enough to set a new Poinsettia Bowl record. He finished the game with eight catches for 165 yards and one touchdown.

Overshadowing Brown's performance, as if that was possible, was the running of Hillman. His 228 yards rushing came on 28 carries for an average of 8.1 yards per carry. The Aztecs' offensive line, averaging 297 pounds per player, dominated the line of scrimmage and consistently opened large holes for Hillman, who scored three of his touchdowns on the ground and one in the air. Tommie Draheim, who played with Lindley at El Capitan High School, was among the standouts on the offensive line.

Navy was not as easy an opponent to defeat as the final score might indicate. The Midshipmen scored 14 points in the second quarter and kept the score to within one touchdown, trailing 21-14 at halftime. Quarterback Ryan Dobbs, considered a Heisman trophy candidate by some experts, led his team and its triple-option offense on two scoring drives. One resulted in a touchdown run by Dobbs, the other a well thrown ball from Dobbs to Greg Jones.

Dobbs and his offense had a great opportunity to tie the game at 21 in the third quarter on a fourth-and-goal play. Fortunately for the Aztecs, Bo Snelson, who was open in the end zone, could not hold on to a short pass from Dobbs, leaving the Midshipmen empty-handed on what had been a promising drive for them.

One disadvantage of the triple-option is that it is not an offense that lends itself well to coming from behind. That combined with the speed of the Aztecs' skill players and size of their linemen made it difficult for the Midshipmen to keep the game close. The 35-14 final score gave the Aztecs their first bowl game win since December 6, 1969.

That was when San Diego State College defeated Boston University 28-7 in the Pasadena Bowl. Don Coryell coached that team to an 11-0 record. Also on that team was Brian Sipe (Grossmont H.S. class of 1967), who went on to play in the NFL and is now the quarterbacks coach for the Aztecs.

The Aztecs' last bowl appearance had been in 1998, when they lost to the University of North Carolina 20-13 in the Las Vegas Bowl. That team was coached by Ted Tollner, and finished with a 7-5 record.

With the win, SDSU finishes the 2010 season with a record of 9-4. The team has improved significantly under the leadership of head coach Brady Hoke, who is 13-12 at SDSU after two seasons. The biggest concern that many Aztecs fans have is whether or not Hoke will return to coach the team next year. He is interested in coaching at the University of Michigan, and with that program struggling in recent years, there may be a vacancy come January.

The Midshipmen also end their season with a 9-4 record. The 2010 season was atypical in that all three service academies: Navy, Army and Air Force, were bowl eligible. All senior players will have to fulfill military service obligations after graduation. Very few players from the service academies go on to play football professionally after completing their duties.



Christopher Mohr is a freelance writer in the San Diego area and is an avid Chargers, Padres and Detroit Red Wings fan.



Scoring Summary


Navy        0 14 0 0 - 14
SDSU 14 7 0 14 - 35


First Quarter
  SDSU - Hillman 22 run (Perez kick)
  SDSU - Brown 53 pass from Lindley (Perez kick)

Second Quarter
  N - Jones 30 pass from Dobbs (Buckley kick)
  SDSU - Hillman 37 run (Perez kick)
  N - Dobbs 1 run (Buckley kick)

Third Quarter
  No scoring

Fourth Quarter
  SDSU - Hillman 15 pass from Lindley (Perez kick)
  SDSU - Hillman 1 run (Perez kick)

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