San Diego State Wins Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - 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."