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Santos Breaks Passing Record in 38-21 Loss

November 08, 1987|CURT HOLBREICH | Times Staff Writer

PROVO, Utah — There was 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 productive passer in major college football history. But inside Cougar Stadium, the feeling and the sounds were much different.

Like so much in this season of disappointment for the Aztecs, it was a lifetime accomplishment muted by the circumstances of the moment.

That the Aztecs (3-7, 2-4) lost to Brigham Young, 38-21, for the seventh time without a victory in Provo might be bad enough. But there was much more.

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

It was an action that upset San Diego State 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, San Diego State athletic director.

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

The milestone 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 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, 8 more than the 211 he needed at the start of the game to break the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division I-A record for career passing yards set by Sweeney last year. Santos finished with 10,661 yards as he completed 19 of 38 attempts.

The game clock stopped only for the moment it took to reset the chains. The only recognition of the achievement came from a small group of Aztec 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 on the play.

However, what really mattered was that the Cougars led, 38-14, when Santos broke Sweeney's record.

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 " Saaantos , Saaantos ."

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 center. The crowd also got a good chuckle when Santos attempted to backpedal, slipped and fell, landing on the grass field made slick by the intermittent rain that had fallen for much of the game.

Maybe it was only right that Santos picked himself up from that embarrassment and, on the next play, complete the pass that put him ahead of Sweeney. After all this was the school that recruited Santos out of Selma (Calif.) High School but decided he wasn't good enough to offer a scholarship.

Santos did not criticize the decision to not stop the game. But he did make it clear on the field, he would not back down from the Cougars taunts. After tailback Paul Hewitt scored the second of his three touchdowns on a two-yard run to cut the score to 21-14 with 4:44 left in the first half, Santos got so involved in the shouting, he had to be held back by fullback Troy Reed.

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