September 18, 2011

SDSU moves to 3-0 with impressive win

Ryan Lindley strode into San Diego State's postgame press conference, plopped down in his chair and was borderline giddy.

Lindley's seen some frustrating losses in his five years at SDSU. He's lost to a Cal Poly squad, was dominated in a game by 63 points once, fell countless times to rivals and never sniffed a win against a BCS conference squad.

But Lindley and the Aztecs got every monkey off their back on Saturday night in front of a record-breaking 57,286 fans at Qualcomm Stadium, beat Washington State 42-24, and snapped a 0-19 streak to Pac-12 teams. And Lindley could not have been happier about it.

"I'd say it's probably the greatest win since I've been here," the Aztec quarterback said with a big grin. "It was a great win."

If first offensive plays of the game and of the second half were glimpses into the future, SDSU looked headed for anything but a great win. Washington State lined up on its own 20-yard line for its first drive, and chucked an 80-yard bomb to receiver Marquess Wilson to take a 7-0 lead just three and a half minutes into the game.

And when WSU came out of halftime up 17-14 and then scored another 80-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the third quarter, things really didn't look like they were headed for an Aztec win.

"Any time the very first pass they throw goes 80 yards for a touchdown and then one of the first couple passes they throw in the second half goes another 80 yards for a touchdown," head coach Rocky Long said, "that kind of worries you a little bit."

So there the Aztecs were, down 24-14 to a Pac-12 team early in the third quarter. In the past, they used to pack it in.

"I've been here three years now, and there were times in the past where we've fainted when it looked like we had a chance to lose the game," Long said.

But SDSU did just the opposite. It rode Ronnie Hillman, who had 191 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries, it forced turnovers, another three on Saturday, and it scored points in bunches, 27 unanswered in the second half. And when the final whistles blew and the fireworks popped off at Qualcomm Stadium on Sky Show night, the Aztecs were 3-0 for the first time in 30 years.

"The way we came back, that's tough," Lindley said. "It takes a team with will and a team with heart to come back and play the way we did."

Ronnie Heisman?

Hillman did it all on Saturday night. He juked, he dashed, he flashed and he sprinted. But he showed something against Washington State that Long hadn't seen him show in the past.

"We all know he can jump sideways, make people miss and outrun people," Long said. "But what you saw tonight when he was corralled in there, he brought his shoulders and helmets down and moved the piles forward."

Hillman, who added 16 pounds this summer, has power now. And it might lead to Heisman Trophy consideration.

Hillman now has 497 rushing yards and eight touchdowns through just three games this season. He's scored in six consecutive games and has recorded five straight 100-yard rushing games, and it's all starting to add up to Heisman talk.

Just don't ask Hillman about it.

"If you don't win, you don't get it," Hillman said of the Heisman. "So I'm just worried about this game and how we won and just continue to prepare for the future."

Finding a fourth

Long has preached for the last month he does not have a fourth cornerback. But on Saturday, Romeo Horn trotted out on the field and lined up against receivers on the outside.

"I guess you can say he's a fourth corner," Long said. "He's getting better in practice."

The Aztecs had previously only used King Holder, Leon McFadden and Larry Parker, but against WSU's spread, they unleashed Horn.

He recorded one tackle in his time on the field. Long seemed unsure of if Horn would see more action against Michigan next week.

Short Shots

SDSU moved its overall winning streak to five and moved its winning streak versus non-Top 25 teams to eight. … The Aztecs beat a BCS conference team for the first time since 1999. … The 57,286 in attendance is a regular-season school record. … SDSU owns a 3-0 record for the first time since 1981. … The Aztecs won for the first time when they trailed in a game entering the fourth quarter since 2009. … Lindley became just the second player in Aztec history to throw for 10,000 yards in his career. … Tight end Alston Umuolo caught his first passes of the season and first overall since the second game of 2010.

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