What a superb showing by San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl for the program’s first bowl victory since 1969.

The Aztecs put on a scintillating show while defeating Navy 35-14 on Thursday night during the school’s first bowl appearance since 1998.

Ronnie Hillman set a Poinsettia Bowl record with 228 rushing yards and Vincent Brown had a bowl-record 165 receiving yards as the Aztecs rolled up 555 offensive yards and frustrated a Navy offense that had topped 30 points in six consecutive contests.

That San Diego State can boast about a 9-4 record in Brady Hoke’s second season as coach is a remarkable feat.

The Aztecs were in shambles when Hoke took over for Chuck Long following the 2008 campaign. Perhaps you recall the most ridiculous score in San Diego State history.

New Mexico 70, San Diego State 7.

New Mexico shouldn’t score 70 points on a Pop Warner team from Madagascar let alone a major-college program. If that debacle doesn’t occur, then Brady Hoke is coaching somewhere else and not at San Diego State.

Then-athletic director Jeff Schemmel was planning to bring the overmatched Long back for a fourth campaign even though it was clear that Long was never going to be able to revive the program.

Now the big issue will be retaining Hoke. He has reached terms on a contract extension but that doesn’t mean he’s staying put.

If Michigan fires coach Rich Rodriguez after the Gator Bowl, Hoke is believed to be one of the coaches Michigan will seek to interview for the post.

Since Hoke has made it clear in the past that being the Wolverines head coach is his most-desired position, it doesn’t take a genius to suspect there will be some moving vans leaving San Diego for Ann Arbor sometime in January if Hoke is offered the job.

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh will likely be Michigan’s first target but if he’s intent on enjoying the Bay Area for a few more years, then Hoke’s phone will be ringing. Hoke is a former Michigan assistant held in high regard by school insiders.

But for now, Hoke is San Diego State’s head coach and that’s a good thing for anyone interested in the Aztecs.

San Diego State’s first bowl victory in 41 years is a pretty nice accomplishment and the Aztecs should become bowl regulars now that the Mountain West Conference is disintegrating into the “Mountain WAC.”

The departures of TCU, Utah and Brigham Young give San Diego State a major opportunity to contend for conference titles on a regular basis. Newcomer Boise State figures to be able to sustain its success with the Mountain West’s top three programs leaving but who knows how everything else shakes out.

Either way, the Poinsettia Bowl represented a rare night in the national spotlight for the Aztecs that can only boost the school’s fortunes.

Offensive recruits that watched the exploits of Hillman (four touchdowns, including runs of 22 and 37 yards), Brown (eight receptions) and quarterback Ryan Lindley (277 yards, one TD pass on an extraordinary play fake) could envision playing in a high-flying offense.

Defensive recruits saw a unit respond well to the challenges of Navy’s triple-option attack by allowing just two touchdowns and making a key third-quarter goal-line stand that kept the Midshipmen from tying the contest.

Most of all, potential players see a head man like Hoke – a tough-minded coach who now has the perennial downtrodden program on the rise. The Aztecs also have top-flight coordinators in Al Borges (offense) and Rocky Long (defense) so the leadership is in place for an extended upward rise.

Bigger things could be on the horizon in the future but what happens on New Year’s Day might be the most important barometer. If you are a San Diego State fan, you might want to wear blue and maize and turn on the Gator Bowl and root for a Michigan rout of Mississippi State.

Having Rodriguez retain the Wolverines’ job might be the biggest upcoming development for San Diego State’s continuing rise.

One of the things that comes with the territory of doing a great job rebuilding a non-BCS program is that a major school will identify the coach as a top target.

A lot of people nationally are impressed with Hoke. Don’t be surprised if Michigan is too.


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