FOOTBALL: Poinsettia Bowl champs

by Agustin Gonzalez

Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor

After San Diego State sunk Navy 35-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl, senior running back Brandon Sullivan stood on the field with his helmet in his hands — tears of joy streaming down his face. But they weren’t just any tears from an emotional running back, for SDSU (9-4), they symbolized the exorcising of demons — the 2-10 season of two years ago; the 41-year bowl victory drought; the firing of two head coaches in a four-year span.

“It’s a family right here,” Sullivan said. “It’s a bunch of brothers out here, and I’m real proud to be a part of this team.”

Ronnie Hillman rushed for 228 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns as the Aztecs romped the Midshipmen, winning their first bowl game since 1969.

In the postgame press conference, quarterback Ryan Lindley, who threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns, couldn’t say enough about the freshman running back.

“He’s got great balance, great speed,” Lindley said of Hillman, who earned Poinsettia Bowl Offensive MVP. “He’s got God’s blessing and talent and he uses it well. I’m glad that he’s sticking around for the next four years.”

A well-rested Hillman showed why he was named to the All-Mountain West Conference first team and danced his way to a 22-yard touchdown run at the 9:06 mark in the first quarter to open up the scoring for the Aztecs.

SDSU came out firing and stuck it to the Midshipmen secondary in the first quarter. Wide receiver Vincent Brown had seven receptions, 152 yards and a 53-yard touchdown in the opening quarter and set a Poinsettia Bowl record for receiving yards — before halftime. The Aztecs’ passing game consisted of only Lindley to Brown in the first quarter. No other Aztec had a catch.

Navy (9-4) runs a triple option offense consisting of mostly pitches and quarterback keepers, but down 14-0, Midshipmen quarterback Ricky Dobbs showed why SDSU couldn’t just focus on the run. He fired a pass to Greg Jones for a 30-yard touchdown which cut the Aztecs’ lead to seven.

SDSU and Navy traded rushing touchdowns — a 37-yarder by Hillman, and a one-yard scoring rush by Dobbs — to make the halftime score 21-14 in favor of the Aztecs.

Hillman added a receiving touchdown and another rushing score in the fourth quarter to bring the final score to 35-14.

Then-head coach Brady Hoke said this win helped cement the legacy of the senior class.

“There’s a lot of tradition, a lot of legacy here that we feel like we are accountable for as we go out and play every day,” Hoke said. “We think about the past and the present and the future Aztec warriors. How about the endurance of the offense? They hung in there. This is a great Navy team. It’s great to win this football game.”