This is the 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in a nutshell for the Buffalo Bulls. They had two punts blocked. They turned the ball over three times. They committed eight penalties. They had just 14 first downs not given to them by penalty. They averaged just three yards per rushing attempt. They completed just 13 of their 31 pass attempts.
Does that tell the entire story? Not quite. Buffalo blocked a field goal attempt, forced two turnovers and benefited from 13 San Diego State penalties. Unfortunately, they only forced the Aztecs to punt once in the entire game and were dominated on the ground, as SDSU averaged 5.8 yards per carry on their way to 249 rushing yards.
All of this resulted in the San Diego St. Aztecs winning a convincing 49-24 decision. The 49 points were the most by SDSU in regulation during the 2013 season, and their 25-point margin of victory was their biggest of the year. Their biggest regular season victory had been just ten points, and three of their first seven wins were in overtime.
San Diego State took the opening kickoff and drove 48 yards in ten plays before facing a 4th-and-9 from the Buffalo 27. Despite enormous difficulties with field goal kicking throughout the season, the Aztecs chose to attempt a 44-yard kick. The attempt was blocked by Buffalo's Max Schreck, and Okoye Houston recovered at the Buffalo 14.
The Bulls were not able to make anything of the block. They netted just one yard in three plays, and on fourth down, a Tyler Grassman punt was blocked by Scott Graves. The punt rolled 23 yards to the Buffalo 38 before it was downed. The craziness continued, however. Two plays after an SDSU procedure penalty to start their drive, the Aztecs faced a 3rd-and-8 from the Buffalo 36. Quinn Kaehler was sacked by Brandon Crawford and was stripped of the ball. Khalil Mack recovered for the Bulls at their own 48.
Unfortunately, the Bulls again failed to get a first down. Joe Licata threw incomplete on 3rd-and-2, and Grassman's punt was fair caught at the SDSU 13. This time, Kaehler led his team downfield with his arm. He completed a 37-yard pass to Eric Judge on 3rd-and-9 to push the ball to the Buffalo 30. An eight-yard pass to Judge on the next play, followed by a one-yard run by Chad Young, set up a 3rd-and-1 from the Buffalo 21. However, Buffalo's defense stuffed runs on third and fourth down for no gain, and they took over on downs.
That was three SDSU possessions in Buffalo territory, yet somehow the game was still scoreless. Unfortunately, that didn't last long.
After another Buffalo punt, San Diego State took over once again in fantastic field position at their own 45. Three plays later, Kaehler kept the ball and rushed around the right end, going untouched up the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. At the end of the first quarter, Buffalo had been outgained 154-22 and had no first downs and just one pass completion.
Buffalo's woes continued immediately in the second quarter. After Licata threw an incompletion to begin the frame, he was sacked on third down and fumbled away the ball. Cody Galea recovered for the Aztecs at the Buffalo 30. A 14-yard pass to Ezell Ruffin put SDSU in a goal-to-go situation, and on third down, Adam Muema ran around the left for a three-yard touchdown and a 14-0 edge.
The Bulls finally got their offense working on the next possession. Branden Oliver pounded his way for 21 yards, while Licata actually completed two passes to Fred Lee. After the second, a 15-yard completion, SDSU committed a personal foul, and the penalty put the ball at the Aztecs' 15. Three plays later, Oliver caught a screen pass from Licata and rumbled into the end zone for the Bulls' first score of the game.
It appeared that Buffalo had swung momentum to their favor, as their defense held San Diego State and forced what was ultimately the Aztecs' only punt of the game. The Bulls took over in positive territory, at the SDSU 46, and another personal foul helped Buffalo get into scoring position. Ultimately, Patrick Clarke came in and kicked a 38-yard field goal to cut the SDSU lead to 14-10 with 4:01 left in the first half.
Momentum, being the fickle beast that it is, swung right back to San Diego State. Muema ran for 22 yards on the first play of their next drive, and Kaehler followed that with a 39-yard pass to Ruffin to get inside Buffalo's 10. On 3rd-and-goal from the 8, Muema again rushed around the left end for a touchdown.
It appeared that SDSU would head into the locker room with a 21-10 lead, right? Wrong. The Bulls clearly intended to try to score again, but Licata threw two bad incomplete passes to start their drive. Then, on third down, his pass was tipped, and Marcus Andrews intercepted it. San Diego State capitalized immediately, when Kaehler threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Denso for a 28-10 lead.
Buffalo again tried to pass during the half's final 38 seconds, and Licata did complete a 51-yard pass to Alex Neutz. However, time expired on that play, and the Aztecs held their 28-10 lead as they headed to the locker room. Aside from that 51-yard pass on the final play of the half, Buffalo ran 35 plays for just 109 yards in the first 30 minutes.
SDSU effectively ended the game at the beginning of the second half. Buffalo's appropriately named Boise Ross took the second half kickoff but fumbled when he was hit by Denso. Denso then recovered the ball for the Aztecs at the Buffalo 26. It took just five plays to score, as Kaehler threw another touchdown pass. This 11-yard scoring throw went to Adam Roberts, and they held an insurmountable 35-10 lead.
San Diego State scored again after another three-and-out by Buffalo. On this drive, they ran the ball seven times (including six by Muema). Chad Young capped the drive with a one-yard plunge, and the Aztecs led 42-10 with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter.
The two teams exchanged three touchdowns during the game's final 23 minutes to ultimately give SDSU their 49-24 victory. Buffalo eventually piled up 309 yards of total offense, but 146 of those came after they fell behind 42-10.
Licata completed just 13 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns. However, six of those completions and two of the touchdowns.came after the game was out of hand. Oliver ran for 114 yards on 28 carries, but again, most of those yards came when they didn't matter. Oliver ran for 61 yards in the game's final 23 minutes. Oliver, Lee and Neutz each caught the touchdown passes. Lee led the Bulls with four receptions, while Neutz had a team-best 77 receiving yards.
Khalil Mack was largely quiet. He had just six tackles, none of which were for loss (which means no sacks, either). He did have one pass break-up and that fumble recovery in the first quarter, but that's it. Credit the Aztecs for neutralizing him.
For SDSU, Kaehler completed 15 balls for 211 yards and two touchdowns. He also had that 29-yard touchdown run. Muema dominated the game with 229 yards rushing and three touchdowns thanks to 28 carries. Ruffin led the team with five catches for 75 yards.
Both teams finish the 2013 season at 8-5. This is San Diego State's first bowl victory outside the state of California since winning the Pineapple Bowl on Jan. 1, 1952.