San Diego St routs Buffalo 49-24 in Potato Bowl

Buffalo will have to wait a little longer for its first taste of

postseason success.

Costly turnovers, a stagnant offense early on and a defense that

gave up too many big plays spoiled any hopes of ending a bowl

drought that spans 100 seasons.

The Bulls, playing in the second bowl game in school history,

were overmatched Saturday as San Diego State rolled to a 49-24

victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Fourth-year coach Jeff Quinn was disappointed, but vowed his

team would learn from the experience.

”We need to go back and analyze what transpired on that field

today,” Quinn said. ”Getting to this point, from the invitation

to the recognition of the work they have done … but we need to

know how to get to this point and then how to finish. We need to

learn how to build from this.”

The Bulls (8-5, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) made things

difficult for themselves by turning the ball over, something they

avoided most of the year.

During a 5-minute span in the second and third quarters, San

Diego State (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West) scored 21 straight points. Two

of those touchdowns were fueled by a pair of costly Buffalo

turnovers, the first an interception in the final minute of the

first half by Joe Licata and the second a fumble on the opening

kickoff in the second half.

”Our players were ready and prepared,” Quinn said. ”But I’ve

always said you’ve got to take care of the ball. We didn’t do that.

It got away from us a little bit, but we fought back.”

San Diego State was led by Adam Muema, who scored three

touchdowns and ran 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 was 15

of 28 for 211 yards, and his two TD passes helped the Aztecs 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.

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.

Buffalo was hobbled by turnovers, but it wasn’t the only

problem. The offense struggled early and the defense failed to do

something it did so well all season – win the turnover battle.

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.

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

out.

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

yards.

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

early.

”I missed a lot of opportunities that we usually hit,” said

Licata. ”We made a lot of mistakes and we can’t do that and expect

to win.”