In the San Diego State football team’s game against Fresno State Saturday evening at Qualcomm Stadium, SDSU found itself down 21-0 in the second quarter. Bulldogs’ quarterback Derek Carr was going off, his defense was holding strong and it looked as if Fresno State would come away with an easy victory in the inaugural Battle for the Oil Can.
But it didn’t happen.
Not when the Aztecs had superstar sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman (178 rushing yards, four touchdowns). Not when there was an antique oil can at stake. Not on senior night; on quarterback Ryan Lindley’s last home game at San Diego State.
Instead, SDSU scored 28 unanswered points and Hillman punched it in from two yards out with 1:04 left in the game to give the Aztecs a 35-28 win against Fresno State. SDSU overcame a 21-point deficit for only the third time in 498 games at the Division-I level.
“You are only as good as your last game. So we are pretty good right now,” Lindley said. “It has been a ride, this was a fitting way to finish. Start slow and finish fast, that sums up me and (senior linebacker Miles Burris’) five years here.”
But on senior night, it was a sophomore who stole the show. Hillman, who is nursing a high ankle sprain, was a force in the running game and accounted for all but one of the Aztecs’ five touchdowns. With his performance, he now has 1,656 rushing yards, breaking the Mountain West Conference record for rushing yards in a season and moving into second place on SDSU’s single-season rushing list – besting all three of NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk’s season totals.
“He is a force,” Lindley said. “He does some amazing things when you put the ball in his hands. You never know what he could have done either. I missed a couple throws and he could have done some big things with the passing game, too. I think he just is a guy that is plain dangerous.”
In the first half, Fresno State’s Carr looked like his brother, NFL quarterback David Carr. He had 213 passing yards and two scores before halftime, but was held to only 123 yards and no touchdowns after that.
The Aztecs, like they have done all season long, were able to overcome a sloppy, uninspired first half to come away with the victory.
“Any time you have a team that shoots itself in the foot time after time, week after week and then still finds a way to make enough plays and play hard to the end, to win as many games as we have in that scenario, that says something about the character (of the team),” head coach Rocky Long said.