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Aztecs Make Sure Lobos' Number Is Up in Finale

November 22, 1987|CURT HOLBREICH | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — The final score showed that San Diego State had beaten New Mexico, 53-30, to close out its 1987 football season.

But the number that mattered most was No. 8. That was the number on the black jersey Todd Santos wore Saturday night. It was the last time Santos would wear that jersey. It was the last time any Aztec would wear that number.

After four seasons, measured in 46 games and thousands of yards, the Santos years came to an end at San Diego State.

It would be hard to call this period from 1984 through 1987 an era, for the Aztecs lost two more games than they won during those seasons. But it certainly had been a special time on Montezuma Mesa.

Last season, the Aztecs won their first Western Athletic Conference championship. They played in their first bowl game in 17 years. They beat Brigham Young, if only but once.

And Saturday night they finished the season with a victory.

It was the Aztecs' fourth victory in their last five games. They finished the season 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the WAC. That the victory came against the Lobos, who are winless in 10 games and finished 0-8 in the WAC, did not seem to matter as much as that it allowed Santos to leave a winner.

But it will be a night that few will be able to say they saw.

A crowd of 21,392, one of the smaller gatherings of the season, came out to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium on a clear, cool night to give a final send-off to Santos, who had his number retired in a postgame ceremony. Most of those had left by the start of the fourth quarter.

Those who stayed did their best to fill up the mostly empty stadium with their cheers when Santos left the field for the last time with 35 seconds to play.

Santos finished the night with 23 completions on 31 attempts for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns. He threw 2 interceptions.

For a moment, it appeared as if Santos would not have a chance to get an on-the-field farewell. With the Lobos deep in their own territory, the Aztecs called a timeout in hopes of getting the ball back so that Santos could have one last hurrah. But New Mexico made the first down and appeared ready to run out the clock, leaving Santos to end his career on the bench.

But then when hope appeared lost, linebacker John Wesselman stepped in front of a Barry Garrison pass for the interception. Santos trotted on the field for the last time, joined the huddle, then turned and headed back to the sideline. There he was greeted in an embrace by Coach Denny Stolz.

No. 8 was history.

"I'd like to thank the fans who came here every week and supported Aztec football," Santos said in the postgame ceremony. "I'd like to thank Coach (Stolz) for these last two years. He gave me a lot of confidence. I like to thank the players both past and present. I'd like to thank my family and Selma (Santos' hometown) for coming to support me tonight. Lastly, it's been a real honor to be an Aztec. Thank you."

And with that, Santos ended his playing days at SDSU. But before he said goodby, he added a few more records to his already extensive list.

Among the marks Santos broke or tied Saturday night were:

--National Collegiate Athletic Assn. record for most career completions. Santos finished with 910, breaking the record of 900 set by Brian McClure of Bowling Green in 1985.

--NCAA record for career games passing of 300 yards or more. Santos tied the record of 17 games set by Jim McMahon of Brigham Young in 1981.

--SDSU season record for total offense. Santos finished with 3,688 yards, breaking the record of 3,528 set by Matt Kofler in 1981.

None of those, of course, compared with the final and most impressive mark in the Santos record book--his major-college record of 11,425 career passing yards.

It is that accomplishment for which Santos and this season likely will be remembered.

But there other highlights, most notably junior tailback Paul Hewitt.

Hewitt became the sixth Aztec and the first since Chris Hardy in 1985 to rush for 1,000 yards. Hewitt had 25 carries for 90 yards against the Lobos to finish the season with 1,001 yards. It seemed most appropriate that Hewitt went over 1,000 yards on a four-yard touchdown run with 1:52 left in the third quarter. It was Hewitt's fourth touchdown of the game and his 24th of the season and gave the Aztecs a 46-22 lead. His touchdowns against New Mexico gave him a school season-record 18 rushing touchdowns.

Hewitt had scored on twice on runs of one yard and seven yards in the first half.

His three touchdowns had helped give SDSU a 31-7 halftime lead, which the Aztecs stretched to 38-7 on the first possession of the second half. The touchdown came on a 10-yard pass to wide receiver DeAngelo Mitchell from Santos with 9:06 left in the third quarter.

The Lobos scored twice in the third quarter on a 11-yard run by Reggie Rodgers and a 7-yard pass to tight end John Duff from Garrison before Hewitt added his final touchdown.

New Mexico closed its scoring on a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Terance Mathis from Garrison with 4:39 to play.

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