The Cal Poly football team left Qualcomm Stadium a loser for the first time in three recent meetings, but a bigger change in San Diego State’s 49-21 victory Saturday overshadowed the outcome.
The Aztecs were able to run the ball unlike they had in 2006 or 2008 when the Mustangs eked out two-point victories each time.
The 149 yards rushing San Diego State had in the 16-14 loss in 2006 only looks large in comparison to the 60 yards on the ground the Aztecs put up in the 29-27 loss in 2008.
On Saturday, San Diego State ran for 289 yards on 49 carries and was led by sophomore standout Ronnie Hillman’s 189 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Junior running back Walter Kazee had 82 yards, including a game-best 41-yard run.
The running game worked to set up quarterback Ryan Lindley’s passing as opposed to the 2008 game when San Diego State had to abandon the run and Lindley, then a redshirt freshman, attempted 45 passes, a record for an Aztecs quarterback in his debut.
On Saturday’s first drive, Hillman ran for 16 yards on the first three plays, and with the Cal Poly defenders creeping up to stop the run, Lindley hit Colin Locket on a 59-yard deep ball on the very next play.
Of Lindley’s four passing touchdowns, two came on play-action, and without having an effect on the San Diego State rushing attack, which averaged nearly 6 yards per carry, the Mustangs pass defense could never get into a rhythm.
The Aztecs scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions, which included drives of seven, nine and 14 plays and sapped nearly 16 1⁄2 minutes off the clock in the first half.
The Mustangs took five true freshmen on the trip to San Diego, and even though only one got into the game, he played a major role.
Punter Paul Hundley mistakenly came onto the field following a timeout as the Cal Poly offense was attempting to convert a fourth-and-1 trailing by two touchdowns late in the first half.
The illegal substitution forced head coach Tim Walsh to reconsider and punt the ball away instead of trying to score, but Hundley will almost certainly be remembered more for his actual contributions rather than the mental mistake.
The freshman from St. Augustine High in San Diego punted 10 times for an average of 38.7 yards.
Hundley put two punts inside the Aztecs’ 20-yard line and booted two farther than 50 yards, his longest totaling 53 yards.
Cal Poly hasn’t had a punter average better than 37 yards over a full season since 2007, when Tim Chicoine averaged 42.5 and registered a long of 55 yards.
Since Chicoine, the Mustangs have used a starting safety, a back-up quarterback and a converted kicker to handle punts, often relying on a rollout rugby style.
After relinquishing his placekicking duties for last season, Chris Pinto averaged 36.1 yards with 16 inside the 20 and zero touchbacks.