Buffalo-San Diego St. Preview
While San Diego State and Buffalo may be at different levels of
program building, both teams see a potential next step in the
offering with a victory in Saturday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at
The Aztecs (7-5) set a school record with their fourth
consecutive bowl appearance after finishing second to Fresno State
in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference. San Diego
State overcame a brutal 0-3 start in which it was drilled 40-19 by
FCS school Eastern Illinois on Aug. 31 to open the season and
routed 42-7 at Ohio State the following week.
Coach Rocky Long has sustained the success of predecessor Brady
Hoke, guiding the Aztecs to bowl appearances in each of his three
seasons and is trying to balance using the game as a reward for a
successful season as well as a foundation for next year’s team.
“I think the team is happy and excited to about going to a bowl
game,” Long said. “As a coach, you would like more time to prepare
because you could work more on next year’s team if you had another
week or so before you play. But we have enough time to work on next
year’s team a little bit as we prepare for the bowl game.”
The four straight bowls match San Diego State’s total bowl
appearances in its first 41 years after joining Division I, and the
Aztecs are the first FBS team to make a bowl appearance following
an 0-3 start since 2010. They closed the regular season with a
45-19 loss at UNLV, their first contest in eight games not decided
by seven or fewer points.
Running back Adam Muema will be pivotal for San Diego State to
win just its second bowl game in the last seven. The junior topped
1,000 yards for the second straight season, but has totaled only 57
yards on 36 carries his last two games after amassing 620 in the
“(The lack of success) has nothing to do with Adam Muema,” Long
insisted. “It has to do with our offensive line not blocking very
well for the run in the last two games. But all good running backs
that have a good game have to have someone open a hole for them up
Senior safety Nat Berhe, a first-team all-Mountain West
selection, anchors the San Diego State defense. He totaled team
highs of 59 solo tackles and 94 overall and added six passes
defended and two fumble recoveries.
Buffalo is making its second bowl appearance in school history
after setting an FBS-program record for wins with its 8-4 record.
Like the Aztecs, the Bulls overcame a rocky start that included
lopsided losses to BCS-bound Ohio State and Baylor by a combined
110-33 to begin the season.
They turned it around with a five-overtime win over FCS foe
Stony Brook that triggered a seven-game winning streak in which
they averaged 35.0 points. That offense continued to hum until
Buffalo’s regular-season finale, a 24-7 loss to eventual
Mid-American Conference champion Bowling Green on Nov. 29.
“It’s been four years in the making,” coach Jeff Quinn said
about his team’s bowl berth. “We talked about setting our goals
towards being a football program that has a November and December
tradition. And to be invited to a bowl game when we knew there were
more bowl eligible teams, represents the kind of hard work we have
invested in ourselves.”
The Bulls have a standout running back of their own in senior
Branden Oliver, also a two-time 1,000-yard rusher after totaling
1,421 yards and 15 TDs. He had a streak of seven consecutive
100-yard games end in last month’s loss to the Falcons, who held
him to 46 yards on 18 carries.
“I remember Buffalo played Ohio State pretty tough, a lot
tougher than we did, so they have some good players on that team
and especially on defense,” Aztecs quarterback Quinn Kaehler said.
“I just think we need to execute better both in the running game
and the passing game.”
Buffalo made its only other bowl appearance in 2009 – a loss to
Connecticut in the International Bowl – but it also turned down an
invitation to the 1958 Tangerine Bowl after being told two of its
African-American players would not be allowed to participate.