San Diego State showed signs of improvement under first-year coach

Despite late-season slide, Brady Hoke has Aztec program headed in right direction

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Justin M. Bowen

San Diego State running back Walter Kazee out runs the UNLV defense for a big gain during the season finale for both teams Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.

San Diego State vs UNLV

UNLV overcame a 17-point deficit to send its 16 seniors and Mike Sanford out on a 28-24 win over San Diego State Saturday.

UNLV-San Diego State Football

UNLV receiver Phillip Payne beats Dey Juan Hemmings of San Diego State for a touchdown during the season finale for both teams Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV won the game 24-20. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

POSTGAME EDITION: Rebels produce winners across the board on busy day

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Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Ray Brewer discuss a busy day in UNLV athletics, including the hoops squad's resounding 76-71 victory over No. 16 Louisville at the Mack and the football team's sendoff to coach Mike Sanford and its 16 seniors coming in the form of a 28-24 come-from-behind victory at home over San Diego State.

Surrendering a double-digit second half lead against a mediocre opponent isn’t exactly how the San Diego State football team wanted to close the year.

But the Aztecs limped into the offseason Saturday with a 28-24 loss to host UNLV at Sam Boyd Stadium, allowing the Rebels to close the game with 21 unanswered points in the final 23 minutes.

The Aztecs made improvements this fall under first-year coach Brady Hoke and needed two wins in their final four games to become bowl eligible. However, they finished the season on a four-game losing streak.

“We made some progress this year, but we have a lot more progress to make,” Hoke said.

This wasn’t their first second-half collapse of the season.

San Diego State (4-8, 2-6) gave up 24 fourth-quarter points on Nov. 14 to Wyoming in a 30-27 defeat — a game, like Saturday against UNLV, that will serve as motivation in the offseason.

“The foundation is set for next year, but we are sick of the moral victories,” said San Diego State sophomore quarterback Ryan Lindley, who passed for 341 yards and a touchdown.

Hoke was hired last January after leading Ball State to a 12-1 record in 2008. Despite the loss, Lindley said the feeling in the Aztecs locker room is that they are headed in the right direction.

Like all teams this offseason, he said they need to work on getting bigger, stronger and faster.

“I don’t think we put a full game together this year,” he said.

San Diego State started three freshmen and two sophomores on an offense against UNLV and had several underclassman in key spots on the depth chart on both sides of the ball. Still, they would have equaled their highest win total in six years with a victory against the Rebels.

“Every season has its peaks and valleys and this was no different,” Hoke said.

Hoke credited his seniors for leading the way since he was hired last winter. One of those seniors, linebacker Luke Laolagi, returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to give the Aztecs an interception return for a touchdown in six straight games against UNLV.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].

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  1. SDSU fired everyone above the equipment manager...