SAN DIEGO — If football teams really create their own breaks, then San Diego State has an unusual way of making things happen.
Perhaps the biggest Aztec play in Saturday night's 41-22 win over Stanford came after Casey Brown fumbled in the second quarter. Webster Slaughter retrieved the loose ball and ran 51 yards for a touchdown, giving SDSU a 20-10 lead.
"It's nice to get a break," Coach Doug Scovil said. "In the last two years, that wouldn't have happened. Everything went against us."
Slaughter happened to be going toward the ball after Brown caught a Todd Santos pass.
"When the ball was still rolling, I picked it up and ran in one motion," Slaughter said. "I didn't know if I was allowed to pick it up and advance it. If they gave the touchdown to me, I was going to take it. If not, we still had the ball. That's the first time I've ever scored on a fumble recovery."
The play, which began at SDSU's 20, helped three Aztecs statistically. Santos was credited with an 80-yard touchdown pass. Brown was credited with one reception for 29 yards. Slaughter was given 51 yards in pass receiving but was not credited with a reception.
Santos, a sophomore, has taken over the NCAA lead in passing efficiency. He has completed 69 of 99 passes for 936 yards and 10 touchdowns in 4 games. He has thrown five interceptions.
Against Stanford, Santos had one of his better nights as an Aztec. He was 18 of 24 for 320 yards and 5 touchdowns with 1 interception. The five touchdowns were a personal high at SDSU, surpassing his previous best by three.
"We watched a lot of film during the week and saw that Stanford's safeties didn't get back like they should," Santos said. "Our receivers were able to get behind them with their speed."
Santos is among three Aztecs ranked in the top 20 in NCAA individual statistics. Slaughter is 16th in receptions with a 6.0 per-game average and Chris Hardy is 17th in rushing with a 105-yard average. SDSU also ranks 11th in scoring (34.8), 15th in passing yardage (258.0) and 17th in total offense (431.5).
One of the happiest Aztecs was defensive tackle Mike Hooper, who was reared 15 minutes from the Stanford campus. Hooper has two brothers who attended Stanford--Chip, 26, who plays on the pro tennis tour, and Greg, 24, who played fullback for the Cardinal.
Hooper was credited with both Aztec sacks of John Paye. Hooper said it was a present for Greg, whose birthday was Saturday.
"When I go home, you know I'll wish him a happy birthday," Hooper said with a laugh. "Greg probably wanted for me to do well but for Stanford to win."
SDSU is 3-1 and Stanford is 1-3. The Aztecs play nine-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion Brigham Young on Saturday afternoon in Provo, Utah.
"This game definitely will help us against BYU," Scovil said. "We have a lot more confidence now."
Paye set a Stanford single-game completion record by hitting 40 of 56 passes for 390 yards against the Aztecs. He did not throw a touchdown or interception.
"The record doesn't mean much at all," Paye said. "We were behind most of the game, so I had to throw the ball."
With Stanford driving midway through the fourth quarter, Paye completed a 47-yard pass to Jeff James. However, James fumbled the ball out of the end zone when hit at the 1-yard line by Mario Mitchell. SDSU then regained possession leading, 41-22.
"I think that play characterized the game for San Diego State," Paye said. "They never gave up or conceded any touchdowns. When you play with as much intensity as they did, good things happen such as a fumble on the 1-yard line."
The teams combined for 1,016 yards in total offense. Stanford netted 503 yards on 92 plays and SDSU had 513 yards on 61 plays.
"San Diego State is good offensively, but I don't think they are that good," Stanford Coach Jack Elway said. "Overall, we didn't play good defense. It was our worst football game so far."