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Santos Gets the Record, but BYU Kills the Music

November 08, 1987|CURT HOLBREICH | Times Staff Writer

PROVO, Utah — There were the tearful embrace of a loving mother, the beaming smile of a proud father and the youthful excitement of a kid brother clutching the game ball.

That was the scene outside the San Diego State locker room Saturday after Todd Santos surpassed Kevin Sweeney of Fresno State to become the most prolific passer in major college history.

But inside Cougar Stadium, where Brigham Young won, 38-21, the feeling and the sounds were much different.

Like so much in this season of disappointment for the Aztecs, Santos' feat--he now has 10,661 career passing yards--was a lifetime accomplishment muted by the circumstances of the moment.

That the Aztecs (3-7 overall, 2-4 in the Western Athletic Conference) lost to Brigham Young for the seventh time without a victory in Provo was bad enough. But there was much more.

There taunts from the BYU defense, mockery from the BYU crowd and the final insult--a decision by BYU officials not to acknowledge Santos' achievement with a stadium announcement or even the removal of the game ball.

It was an action that upset SDSU officials and players, and left BYU players somewhat embarrassed.

"I'm disappointed because 10,000-plus yards is a national record that deserves that kind of recognition regardless of site," said Fred Miller, SDSU athletic director.

"They should have stopped the game," said Sean Covey, BYU quarterback. Covey said he did not realize Santos had broken Sweeney's record of 10,623 career yards until he crossed the field to congratulate Santos after the game.

"I didn't think he did it because I thought they would stop the game," Covey said. "I had to ask him if he had gotten the record."

The history-making pass came on an underneath route to Ron Slack, a sophomore running back from Muir High School in Pasadena. Slack caught the ball at the San Diego State 38-yard line and slipped two tacklers before being stopped at the BYU 44 for a 23-yard gain with 1:40 left to play.

"It felt great; it really did," Santos said. "I'm glad I got it over with and can go on from here."

The completion gave Santos 219 yards for the game, eight more than he needed to break the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division I-A record for career passing yards set by Sweeney last year. For the game, Santos completed 19 of 38 passes for 248 yards.

Santos, in what for him was a gush of emotion, raised his arms above his head in triumph after the record-breaker. That was the extent of the celebration.

The game clock stopped only for the moment it took to reset the chains. The only recognition of the achievement came from the clapping of a small group of supporters who must have been keeping track of Santos' progress on their own. It wasn't until the next play, an incomplete pass in front of the Aztecs bench, that someone on the sideline was alert enough to grab the ball used in the historic play.

"That wasn't right," Slack said. "They should have stopped the game and given him the ball. I don't know why they didn't do it. Todd deserved that much."

But BYU officials had decided Friday that they would not stop the game or make an announcement, said Dave Schulthess, BYU sports information director.

Schulthess said he was told by BYU Athletic Director Glen Tuckett after the game that the decision was made because a similar incident backfired on the Cougars last season. They stopped a game to honor Steve Bartalo, Colorado State running back, after he broke the Western Athletic Conference career record for rushing yardage. The Cougars were leading but went on to lose, 24-20, and Schulthess said officials thought the announcement helped spark Colorado State.

That the Cougars led, 38-14, when Santos broke Sweeney's record mattered little. The decision had been made. It was the final slight in a day in which Santos might have broken the record but found little else going his way.

The Cougars did much to make Santos unwelcome. The BYU defense taunted him for much of the game in language neither Santos nor some BYU players were willing to reveal. Even the near-capacity crowd of 64,341 got into the act, serenading Santos with mocking strains of "Saaan-tooos, Saaan-tooos."

The crowd was particularly uncharitable after Santos' mistakes. And there were several. He threw a season-high three interceptions, had five other passes deflected and fumbled a snap from the center. The fans also got a good chuckle when Santos attempted to backpedal, slipped and fell on his rear end, landing on the grass field made slick by the intermittent light rain, which had fallen for much of the game.

On the next play, Santos picked himself up from that embarrassment, completing the pass that put him ahead of Sweeney. Santos' record came against the school that recruited him when he was at Selma (Calif.) High School but decided he wasn't good enough to offer a scholarship.

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