San Diego State beat Navy 35-14 in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday night. Here is a quick instant analysis:
How the game was won:The San Diego State offensive balance hurt Navy big time. The Aztecs came out throwing, with Ryan Lindley finding a wide-open Vincent Brown over and over. Then it was time for Ronnie Hillman to do his damage in the run game. Each player had more than 100 yards in the first half alone. Navy was able to lock down much better on Brown after the first quarter and did a better job limiting big plays in the pass game, but they had a difficult time containing Hillman, particularly up the middle. Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs had a good game, but also missed several opportunities that would have kept the Midshipmen in the contest.
Turning point: Navy had a chance to tie the score at 21 in the third quarter. After a 30-yard completion from Dobbs to Gee Gee Greene on fourth down gave the Midshipmen a first-and-goal at the 9. After three unsuccessful plays to get into the end zone, Navy went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 3. Dobbs had a wide open Bo Snelson in the end zone, but the ball just glanced off his fingertips and the Midshipmen came away with nothing.
Player of the game: Hillman continued where he left off during the regular season as the Mountain West Freshman of the Year. He had his sixth 100-yard game of the season with a Poinsettia Bowl record 228 yards and contributed four touchdowns -- including his first touchdown reception. And oh by the way, Hillman broke Marshall Faulk's school record for rushing yards by a freshman. Faulk had 1,429 yards in 1991. Hillman ends the season with 1,532 yards rushing.
Unsung hero: The Qualcomm Stadium grounds crew gets the big nod here. On Wednesday night, the stadium was totally flooded thanks to torrential rains. The crew worked around the clock, pumping 1.5 million gallons of water out of the stadium to get the field ready for the game. They did a terrific job, as the field held up beautifully. No slop, no mud. Players did lose their footing from time to time, but the grass was not torn to shreds and that is a credit to those who worked all night to get the job done.
Best call: You had to love the San Diego State play call on third-and-1 from the Navy 15 to start the fourth quarter. Up 21-14, the Aztecs went with a play-action fake to Brandon Sullivan. He faked going over the top of the pile. Lindley calmly waited for Hillman to get open in the corner of the end zone, then threw him the ball. The 15-yard touchdown pass put the Aztecs up 28-14 and sealed the game.
What it means: San Diego State better hope Michigan has no designs on coach Brady Hoke, should the Wolverines decide to fire Rich Rodriguez. Hoke has done an exemplary job in his second season on the job, getting the Aztecs to nine wins for the first time since a 10-1 season in 1977. It also was the first bowl win for the program since 1969. Lindley and Hillman return, along with leading tackler Miles Burris, so expectations are going to be high going into next season. As for Navy, the Midshipmen senior class is one of the best in program history and will sorely miss Ricky Dobbs, Wyatt Middleton, Jeff Battipaglia and so many more seniors who have made such an impact at the Academy.
Record performance: Brown had a Poinsettia Bowl record for receiving yards in the first quarter alone with 143 yards. He was relatively quiet the rest of the game, but his play in that first quarter helped set the tone.