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South Bay-braced SDSU to meet Navy in Poinsettia Bowl Phillip Brents | Fri, Dec 17 2010 06:32 PM

San Diego State University has accepted a bid to play Navy Thursday, Dec. 23, in the sixth annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. It is the first bowl game appearance for the hometown Aztecs since 1998, and the locals will be buttressed by seven South Bay players when they face the Midshipmen.

Senior receiver Demarco Sampson (First Team All-Mountain West Conference) and junior kicker Abel Perez (Second Team All-MWC) lead that group, which also includes senior linebacker Marcus Yarbrough (Eastlake), sophomore tight end D.J. Shields (Bonita Vista), sophomore defensive back Derek Mack (Otay Ranch) and senior kicker Bryan Shields (Bonita Vista). Linebacker Andrew Feaster is a sophomore transfer from Southwestern College.

Sampson caught 65 passes for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns while Shields scored one TD this season.

Yarbrough ranks fifth on the team with 41 tackles and two sacks.

Perez leads the team in overall scoring with 100 points on 49 PAT conversions and 17 field goals.

The Aztecs had six first team all-conference picks, led by running back Ronnie Hillman, who was named the MWC Freshman of the Year. Also earning first team all-conference honors were receiver Vincent Brown, linebacker Miles Burris, cornerback Leon McFadden and punter Brian Stahovich.

Hillman set a new MWC freshman single-season rushing record with 1,304 yards while Vincent Brown had 61 receptions for 1,187 yards and nine touchdowns). Burris registered 74 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss while McFadden had 12 pass breakups and two interceptions. Stahovich posted a 45.7-yard punting average.

SDSU head coach Brady Hoke was named the MWC Coach of the Year.

Junior quarterback Ryan Lindley earned recognition as a second team all-conference selection, joining teammates Trask Iosefa (center) and Gavin Escobar (tight end).

Lindley (El Capitan) ended the regular season as the MWC’s Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 338 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-14 victory over visiting Nevada-Las Vegas on Nov. 27.

Lindley has thrown for 3,554 yards and 26 touchdowns this season — both career highs. He ranks No. 6 in the nation in passing yards.

One of the most improved teams in the nation, SDSU (8-4) ranks 11th in the nation in passing offense.

Poinsettia Bowl President Eric Graves called the 2010 match-up “a great day for college football in San Diego.”

"To have the hometown Aztecs in our homegrown bowl game is something very special,” Graves said. “And for the Navy Midshipmen to be the opponent is icing on the cake. This most certainly will be a bowl game to remember for many years to come.”

San Diego State finished the regular season 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference to tie for third place, matching its highest finish in conference history. The Aztecs' 8-4 regular season record marks the team's first wining season in 12 years.

San Diego State is looking for its first bowl victory since 1969 (a 28-7 victory over Boston University in the Pasadena Bowl) and a ninth win in 2010 would give the Aztecs their most victories in a campaign since Claude Gilbert guided SDSU to a 10-1 record in 1977.

Meanwhile, the Poinsettia Bowl berth is the third for Navy (9-3) and the eighth consecutive post-season appearance for the Midshipmen. The Midshipmen are coming off a 31-17 victory over Army on Sunday.

Navy enters the game with eight wins in its last nine outings. The Midshipmen rank fifth nationally in rushing (288.92 yards per game), 21st in turnover margin (plus-0.67) and first in fewest penalty yards per game (27.5).

“We are excited to be playing a bowl game here in San Diego in front of our great students, fans and community,” Hoke said. “It is great to play a 13th game and our senior class, with their leadership, has put us in this position.

“We are playing a great opponent in Navy. They are a well-coached, disciplined team and play a very physical style of football.”

This year’s game will mark the Aztecs’ first postseason bowl appearance since the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl, and the ninth in school history.

Navy has three San Diego County players on its roster: junior linebacker Hal Hunter and sophomore safety Dylon Porlas, both from Cathedral Catholic High School, and freshman kicker Brynmor Hughes from St. Augustine High School.

Utah defeated Cal, 37-27, in last year’s bowl game.

Kickoff is set for 5:06 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally in high definition by ESPN. The game can be heard throughout Southern California on AM 600 KOGO and nationally on ESPN Radio.

Tickets to the game can be purchased at the Aztec ticket office at Qualcomm Stadium at window E, or by calling 283-7378.

Game notes

The bowl game will be the final collegiate outing for 17 Aztec seniors. This class has been part of one of the biggest turnarounds in college football during their time at SDSU, helping guide the program from records of 3-9 (2006), 4-8 (2007), 2-10 (2008) and 4-8 (2009) in consecutive campaigns to an 8-4 mark this year. As an example of how far this group has come, in 2008, the team was outscored by 215 points and lost seven games by 25 or more points.

The Aztecs '  four losses in 2010 came by a total of 15 points. Among those four losses are three that occurred on the road, three that came against teams currently ranked 20th or higher by the Associated Press and two games in which San Diego State enjoyed fourth-quarter leads. SDSU's 3.75-point average margin of defeat is third nationally, behind only Boise State and Iowa.

San Diego State has a 5-1 record at home this season, snapping a 25-game losing streak to nationally-ranked teams and defeating Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force in the same season for the first time in school history. San Diego State doubled its win total from 2009 and the four-win improvement tied for the fifth-best nationally.

The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, scheduled Dec. 30 at 7 p.m., also at Qualcomm Stadium, pits Nebraska (10-3) against Washington (6-6).

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