SAN DIEGO — Jim Plum didn't lead San Diego State to a win against Utah on Saturday night, but he did win the starting quarterback assignment for this Saturday's game against Oregon.
"It has to be Plum," Coach Doug Scovil said Sunday. "You can't play the first quarter like Todd Santos did (against Utah). I just hope we can get Jim to put together another game like this one. That's the coolest he has been and the best he has executed."
Plum entered the Utah game with SDSU trailing, 21-3, with 16 seconds left in the first quarter. Though the Aztecs lost on a field goal on the game's final play, 39-37, Plum couldn't be faulted.
The junior from La Mesa's Helix High hit on 15 of 25 passes for 240 yards and 1 touchdown.
"I was just in the right frame of mind," Plum said. "You have to do what you do best, which is throw deep and let the receivers catch the ball. I just wish there was something else I could've done."
Plum set up a touchdown and field goal with passes of 47 and 22 yards to Vince Warren. He set up another touchdown and field goal with passes of 26 and 16 yards to tight end Robert Awalt. And another 46-yard pass to Webster Slaughter came the play before Corey Gilmore's one-yard touchdown run.
"Jim played his best game," Scovil said. "There were a couple of times when he rifled the ball down there with people right in his face. Plus, he made some good getaways on scrambles."
Plum also convinced receivers he is worthy of starting over Santos.
"They both have good touches," Warren said. "I don't see any real differences except that Plum might have a little stronger arm."
Santos was 4 of 11 for 98 yards with 2 interceptions. His last pass was intercepted by Erroll Tucker and returned 86 yards for a touchdown.
However, Santos still ranks 10th nationally in passing efficiency with a 144.0 rating. Plum has a better rating at 149.9, but he has not thrown enough passes to qualify for the rankings.
The pivotal play Saturday happened when Chris Hardy fumbled the ball away at Utah's 28 with 4:54 to play and SDSU leading, 37-27. If Hardy had not fumbled, the Aztecs would have had a first down.
"I figure we could've run at least a minute and a half off the clock if we had gotten the first down," Scovil said. "Utah might have had time to get one score but not two."
Scovil said it appeared on the game films as if Gilmore's arm might have knocked the ball loose from Hardy as he was blocking a defender. Hardy rushed for 104 yards and 1 touchdown, and Gilmore rushed for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Hardy was long remembered for fumbling on the Oklahoma State two-yard line in the final two minutes in last year's 19-16 Aztec loss. He seemingly had erased the memory by not fumbling on his first 90 attempts this season, including rushes, pass receptions and kickoff returns.
Andre Guardi's 42-yard field goal as time expired was his third game-winner for Utah. He also beat Boise State (20-17) and Hawaii (29-27).
Guardi had missed a 44-yard attempt in the first quarter against SDSU by kicking the ball short.
"To tell you the truth, I was thinking about my first kick when I made the last kick," Guardi said. "The first kick was probably the worst of my career. I tried to correct what I did wrong."
Utah leads its series against SDSU, 4-3-1, with none of the games having been decided by more than four points. The Utes have outscored SDSU, 177-176.
SDSU is averaging 40 points and 443 yards total offense through four home games. The opposition has averaged 430 yards and 24.5 points a game at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
The Aztecs are eighth nationally in passing yardage (271.8), 14th in total offense (427.5) and 19th in scoring (29.3). Slaughter is seventh in receptions, averaging 6.2 a game.
The women's volleyball team will have its first home game in three weeks when it plays defending NCAA champion UCLA at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Peterson Gym. SDSU is 18-10 overall.