SAN DIEGO — All week, the San Diego State defense prepared to face Utah's inventive "Disneyland" offense with its so-called "Goofy" and "Daffy" formations.
But the Utes fell so far behind so fast, they never did get around to using their crazy-looking formations. And when the Aztecs had finished with them Saturday night, it was the Utah defense that must have felt daffy, because the Aztecs sure made it look goofy.
The Aztecs scored touchdowns on their first four possessions en route to a 52-34 victory in front of a crowd of 28,645 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
It was the kind of game that made all the Aztecs look good, especially senior quarterback Todd Santos, who completed 35 of 42 passes for a career-high 462 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
Junior tailback Paul Hewitt had his first 100-yard game as an Aztec. Hewitt, a transfer from Citrus College in Glendora, rushed for 113 yards on 18 carries and had touchdown runs of 13 and 25 yards.
Wide receiver Alfred Jackson had four catches for 57 yards, including touchdowns of 10 and 18 yards.
Even Patrick Rowe, the All-American wide receiver from Lincoln High School, got into the act. Rowe, who missed the 47-14 loss to UCLA last week while recovering from a broken collarbone, caught his first collegiate pass, a 12-yarder, midway through the fourth quarter.
The Aztecs gained 626 total yards and scored their most points since a 52-31 victory against Iowa State in 1981.
"We just played an almost perfect first half," SDSU Coach Denny Stolz said. "We were more physical tonight than we were against UCLA."
Actually, neither team paid too much attention to defense. The Utes (1-1 Western Athletic Conference, 1-1 overall) picked up 524 yards of their own and fullback Martel Black, a sophomore from Sweetwater High School, gained 118 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns. But the Aztecs came up with the big plays: three interceptions, two fumbles and a deflected punt.
"Defensively, we had problems with their passing game," Stolz said. "They are a good offensive team and they make the big plays."
All in all, though, it was a healthy exercise for the Aztecs (1-0, 1-1) after the embarrassment at the Rose Bowl and a spirited way to begin defense of their WAC championship.
Nobody benefited more from the game than Santos. He bettered his previous game high of 418 yards set against Colorado State as a freshman in 1984 and raised his career passing yardage to 8,141 yards. That helped Santos move up five places on the all-time National Collegiate Athletic Assn. list to 12th.
Santos played the entire game and completed three passes for 31 yards in the final series of the game, which ended when the Aztecs ran out of time trying to get off a third-and-goal play from the one.
"We had a lot of young kids in there," Stolz said, "and he (Santos) settled the football team down. We had a lot of running backs and receivers who had never played before in there.
"In order for us to operate our offense, he has to be our quarterback."
Santos entered the game needing to average 268 yards per game to break former Fresno State quarterback Kevin Sweeney's year-old record of 10,623 yards. He now must average 249 yards in the Aztecs' 10 remaining regular-season games.
Utah was the worst defensive team in the country last season, and, judging from their first-half performance, the Utes have picked up where they left off. The Aztecs rolled up 425 total yards in the first half and took a 45-21 lead.
The Aztecs scored on seven of their nine possessions, failing only when Tyler Ackerson missed a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter and when Wayne Ross had to make his only punt of the half on SDSU's sixth possession.
That was all the Utes could manage as far as a defensive stand. The rest of the time their secondary was clearly a step or two--or three--slow, their linebackers were helplessly chasing SDSU tight ends Kerry Reed-Martin and Dave Schlick downfield and their line was putting up such an ineffective rush that Santos was sacked only once in 28 passing attempts.
Santos had the best half of his career, completing 22 of 27 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
The Aztecs were unstoppable from the start, scoring on their first four possessions and gaining an average of 12.4 yards per play. The Utes did not help themselves as they lost two fumbles, were twice intercepted and had a punt blocked. The Aztecs converted those mistakes into 24 points.
SDSU took a 14-0 lead almost before Utah had touched the ball. The Aztecs drove 75 yards on six plays for their first touchdown. Junior wide receiver Randy Peterson out-jumped cornerback Clarence Fields, a senior from Clairemont High School, in the right corner of the end zone to complete a 33-yard touchdown play.