SAN DIEGO — If Todd Santos had dreamed of a way to make history, he could not have envisioned anything much better than this.
Needing 10 yards to become only the fourth quarterback in major college history to pass for 10,000 career yards, Santos connected on a 50-yard touchdown pass play to wide receiver DeAngelo Mitchell.
The pass not only put Santos in elite company, it clinched SDSU's 52-42 victory against Cal State Long Beach Saturday night before a homecoming crowd of 23,625 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. The victory broke a five-game SDSU losing streak and raised its record to 2-6.
Santos completed 26 of 40 passes for 434 yards and 3 touchdowns with one interception. That increased his career passing yardage total to 10,040 yards and moved him past Ben Bennett of Duke (9,614 yards) and into fourth place on the NCAA Division I-A all-time list.
Santos needs to average 146 yards in the Aztecs' last four games to break the record of 10,623 career yards held by Kevin Sweeney of Fresno State.
The pass to Mitchell came with the Aztecs clinging to a 45-42 lead. Mitchell, a junior transfer from Mesa College and San Diego High School, was playing in only his second game for the Aztecs. He had beaten his defender on a streak down the left sideline. All he had to do was run under Santos' perfectly thrown pass to the end zone.
"It was nice just to go over 10,000 yards. Right now I'm really happy with a win," Santos said. "I saw that (record announcement) on the scoreboard. I never dreamed of throwing for that many yards in my college career."
Santos was the last player to enter the SDSU locker room. The first thing he did was shake the hands of all his offensive linemen.
But Santos was not the only one who had an impressive performance in what was the highest scoring game in Aztec history.
Junior tailback Paul Hewitt gained 203 yards in 35 carries and scored 3 touchdowns.
Jeff Graham, the 49ers' junior quarterback, completed 29 of 44 passes for 414 yards. He threw two interceptions. Wide receiver Derek Washington caught 12 of those passes for 222 yards. The Long Beach ground game was paced by tailback Michael Roberts, who rushed for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns in 13 carries.
The loss broke the 49ers' two-game winning streak and dropped their record to 4-4. The 94 points the teams combined to score bettered the previous SDSU record of 91 scored in the Aztecs' 71-20 victory against New Mexico State in 1969.
The second half started out similarly to the first as the Aztecs scored on their first possession on Tyler Ackerson's second field goal of the game. Ackerson kicked a 22-yarder after the Aztecs failed to score a touchdown after having a first and goal at the Long Beach 6-yard line.
But the 49ers answered quickly to take their biggest lead of the game when Roberts took a pitch right and ran 30 yards down the sideline before he cut across the field and beat cornerback Clark Moses to the far corner. The 64-yard touchdown run gave Roberts 144 yards and 3 touchdowns in only 11 carries.
SDSU replied with a one-yard run by Hewitt, his third touchdown of the game and his ninth in three games. The Aztecs tried to tie the game on a two-point conversion, but Santos' completion to tailback Ron Slack was nullified on a pass-interference call against wide receiver Monty Gilbreath. The Aztecs trailed, 35-33, with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
But once again the Aztecs couldn't stop Long Beach. Ricco Wilson, a junior fullback from Long Beach Poly High School, dove over from the 1-yard line to cap an 83-yard drive. It was the 49ers' longest drive of the game and gave then a 42-33 lead with 1:28 to play in the third quarter.
Ackerson added his second 22-yarder just 48 seconds into the final quarter to cut the 49er lead to 42-36. It was the first time Ackerson, a junior transfer from Southwestern College, had kicked three field goals in a game as an Aztec. The defense, which had done little to stop the 49ers all night, came up with a big play when defensive end Mitch Burton, a converted tight end, tackled Graham in the end zone for a safety to bring the Aztecs to within 42-38 with 14 minutes to play.
"The safety was a big momentum change for us," SDSU Coach Denny Stolz said. "I'm happy the way we shut them down in the fourth quarter."
After the safety, the Aztecs took the free kick, and six plays later, Alfred Jackson caught a scoring pass of 29 yards from Santos. Ackerson's extra point gave the Aztecs their first lead of the half at 45-42 with 12 minutes left.
The defense stopped the 49ers again when linebacker Chuck Nixon intercepted Graham at the SDSU 34 with 9:19 to play. It was on the nextSantos had a chance to give the Aztecs the lead at halftime, but his 41-yard pass to Gilbreath in the end zone was ruled incomplete because Gilbreath was ruled out of bounds.
Santos kept the night from being perfect, however, when he threw an interception on his next pass. Keith Jenkins picked it off and returned the ball to the SDSU 27. But again the much-maligned defense did it part, stopping the 49ers when Clarence Nunn intercepted Graham at the SDSU 5 with 4:01 to play.
The first half was filled with the kind of play--good and bad--that has made this an unpredictable and disappointing season for the Aztecs.
They moved the ball almost unchecked against the 49ers, but still found themselves trailing, 28-24.
The teams combined for 657 yards in total offense in a first half in which each team punted only once. Both quarterbacks were virtually unstoppable.
Graham completed 20 of 27 passes for 263 yards. Santos was 15 of 21 for 221 yards and a touchdown against a defense that was ranked eighth in NCAA Division I-A against the pass, allowing an average of 128.7 yards per game.