San Diego St routs Buffalo 49-24 in Potato Bowl
San Diego State had its best performance in its season
Behind a swarming defense, an offense fueled by big plays and
opportunistic special teams, the Aztecs rolled to a 49-24 victory
over Buffalo on Saturday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
For coach Rocky Long, it’s the kind of game he has been waiting
for his team to put together all season, a win where all three
phases worked together, avoided costly mistakes and took full
advantage of the miscues of others.
”I thought that’s the best we’ve played all year,” Long said.
”We moved the ball well, we caused turnovers. I thought the
turnover battle would decide who won and that’s exactly what
happened. We just happened to be on the right side of that
Takeaways weren’t the only factor playing in San Diego State’s
Adam Muema scored three touchdowns and rushed for 230 yards, his
fourth career game with more than 200 yards on the ground.
Quinn Kaehler threw for two more scores and ran for another in
leading an offense that generated 460 total yards. Kaehler, who
made his first start in the third game, was 15 of 28 for 211 yards,
and his two TD passes helped the Aztecs (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West)
pull away early.
Taking advantage of a pair of costly Buffalo turnovers, the
Aztecs put up 21 straight points during a 5-minute span in the
second and third quarters.
With less than a minute left in the first half, Aztec safety
Marcus Andrews intercepted Joe Licata’s pass near midfield and
returned it to the 25 to set up Kaehler’s first TD pass, a
25-yarder to Dylan Denso that put San Diego State up 28-10 heading
Buffalo coughed up the ball on the opening kick in the third
quarter, setting up the Aztecs at the Bulls 26. Five plays later,
Kaehler fired an 11-yard pass to tight end Adam Roberts at the back
of the end zone to stretch the lead to 35-10.
The Aztecs won eight of their last 10 games. The bowl victory is
the first in the postseason since 2010 when they beat Navy in the
Poinsettia Bowl and the first postseason victory outside San Diego
city limits since 1969.
For Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn, the turnovers were too much to
”I’ve always said, you’ve got to take great care of the ball,
and right then and there, it turned into a three score
difference,” he said. ”It was a very disappointing loss
Buffalo (8-5, 6-2 Mid-American Conference), playing in its
second bowl game in the team’s 100-year history, also was hobbled
by an offense that took too long to get rolling and a defense that
failed to create its own turnovers.
The Bulls didn’t get their first first down until the 10:42 mark
in the second quarter. They pulled to 14-10 late in the second
quarter when Patrick Clarke kicked a 38-yard field goal.
But the defense, led by MAC Defensive Player of the Year Kahlil
Mack, didn’t have an answer for Muema and the Aztecs on the
following possession. San Diego State marched 67 yards in five
plays and scored when Muema sped around left end from 8 yards
Moments later, Licata threw his only interception.
”In that situation, I took a risk I shouldn’t have taken.
That’s all on me,” said Licata, who was 13 of 30 for 196 yards and
was sacked four times.
Bulls running back Branden Oliver had for 114 yards on 28
carries, but the rest of the offense only managed 309 total
Mack, who was the focus of San Diego State’s game plan, had just
six tackles, as the Aztecs ran the other way or double-teamed him
throughout. The Bulls came into the game with a plus-1.3 turnover
margin, among the best in the nation. Mack recovered a fumble near
midfield in the first quarter, but the offense couldn’t capitalize
against a defense that pressured Licata and bottled up Oliver
San Diego State started the season with three straight losses,
but showed throughout an ability to overcome adversity. Three wins
came in overtime and the Aztecs came from behind in the fourth
quarter to win games.
On Saturday, they didn’t need any late-game drama and
”Guys decided tonight we were going to play up to our abilities
and it showed,” Aztecs safety Nat Berhe said. ”It’s kind of sad
we didn’t play like that all year. But at the same time, I’m glad
it happened today.”