The pass is back in the San Diego State attack and an unlikely source produced one of the top receiving performances in school history.

If you hear that a current Aztecs receiver caught 15 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns during a single game, you most likely will assume that star wideout Vincent Brown had another big-time contest. Only you would be wrong.

DeMarco Sampson, the talented player who was a forgotten man under Chuck Long’s reign, is the player who put up the memorable performance in the Aztecs’ 42-28 victory over Colorado State.

Sampson is enjoying a new lease of (football) life with Brady Hoke as head coach. Last spring, Sampson expressed his happiness that Hoke had replaced Long as Aztecs coach and was encouraged things would change. (

Well, things have changed for him in a big way — never bigger than an epic performance in which he racked up the ninth-most receiving yards in San Diego State history.

Quarterback Ryan Lindley also had a prolific game, throwing for a career-best 459 yards and six touchdown passes (tied for fourth most in a game in Aztecs’ history).

If offensive coordinator Al Borges can dial up more games like this from his troops, the Aztecs may no longer be boring and perhaps a few more fans might venture out to Qualcomm Stadium. When the Aztecs used to regularly draw 40,000 fans to games three decades ago, it wasn’t only because they won games but also because they had an exciting high-octane product.

High-octane and exciting went out the door when Marshall Faulk left for the NFL after the 1993 campaign.

The victory over Colorado State was the first in Mountain West Conference play for the Aztecs (3-4 overall) and they have a great opportunity to notch another next Saturday when winless New Mexico comes to town.

Hard to believe the Lobos embarrassed the Aztecs 70-7 last season but the program has fallen apart now that former coach Rocky Long left New Mexico. Long is now the Aztecs’ defensive coordinator and something tells me he’s very much looking forward to shutting down his former squad.

So things could even get better in a hurry for the Aztecs. While many schools would fret over being 3-4 after seven games, you must remember that the Aztecs haven’t had a better record at this point in the season since the 1998 squad was 4-3 through seven games. And that 1998 squad was the last San Diego State team to play in a bowl game.

Of course, the Aztecs still have games to play with TCU and Utah before the season ends. They closed the gap with BYU in terms of margin of defeat so the best barometer over the final five games of the regular season will be how San Diego State fares against the Horned Frogs and Utes.


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