Running back Ronnie Hillman rushed for 228 yards and 3 TD’s, and caught another TD pass in the San Diego State Aztecs’ 35-14 victory over the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen in the 6th annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Hillman’s performance earned him Offensive MVP honors.
Hillman’s 228 rushing yards broke the Poinsettia Bowl’s single-game rushing yard record (129 yards). He also tied Navy’s Reggie Campbell (2005) and TCU’s Jeff Ballard (2006) for most rushing touchdowns in the bowl game’s 6-year history.
The bowl victory was the first for the San Diego State program since the 1969 Pasadena Bowl. The teams played at Qualcomm Stadium, where only 24 hours earlier the field was flooded over by 1.5 million gallons of water. City and stadium officials spent all night pumping and draining the stadium, and were even able to get the paint down for the logo at midfield before kickoff.
The Aztecs jumped out to an early 14-0 lead as they scored touchdowns both on the ground and in the air in the first quarter. RB Ronnie Hillman opened the game’s scoring when he scampered for a 22-yard touchdown on the Aztecs’ second possession of the game. On their very next possession, QB Ryan Lindley hit Vincent Brown on a short pass and Brown raced to the endzone for a 53-yard touchdown.
Navy answered and got themselves on the board with an 11-play, 68-yard drive, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown pass from QB Ricky Dobbs to a diving Greg Jones in the endzone.
After the teams traded punts, the Aztecs put together a quick 7-play drive as they marched 80 yards in under three minutes, setting up Ronnie Hillman’s 37-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes left before the half. But the 14-point lead didn’t last long, as the Midshipmen got a huge catch from Jones for 40 yards to put them at the San Diego State 11-yard line. Four plays later, QB Ricky Dobbs pounded his way up the middle for his second touchdown of the game, with only seven seconds remaining in the half.
The third quarter was dominated by solid defensive play after the first half saw both tems move the ball effectively. Navy had a great scoring opportunity in their first possession of the half, driving the ball 65 yards to the San Diego State 3-yard line, but they came up empty-handed as Dobbs’ fourth-and-goal pass attempt fell off the fingertips of RB Bo Snelson.
After trading scoreless possessions for the rest of the quarter, the Aztecs put together a drive at the end of the third quarter, and finished it with a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Lindley found Hillman in the back of the endzone after a brilliant fake handoff for a 15-yard touchdown, Hillman’s third of the game, to make the score 28-14.
After another punt by Navy, the Aztecs’ offense continued their hot streak as they manufactured yet another long drive, amassing almost seven minutes before Hillman broke through the line for a 1-yard touchdown run. The touchdown, Hillman’s fourth of the game, tied the Poinsettia Bowl record for rushing touchdowns (3).
The following possession, Navy had one more chance to cut the lead, but Dobbs’ pass was intercepted by defensive back Andrew Preston at the SDSU 4-yard line.