BYU football: Kyle Van Noy scores 2 touchdowns to lead BYU to victory in Poinsettia Bowl (+video)
"We made big-time mistakes," said SDSU coach Rocky Long. "We had a chance to win the game before the turnovers."
BYU senior James Lark started the game, his second career start, and played all but one series. Riley Nelson threw an interception in his only series in the second quarter. Lark completed 23-of-42 passes for 244 yards and two interceptions.
SDSU dominated the first half, though it didn't show on the scoreboard.
The Aztecs stuffed BYU's offense for most of the first 30 minutes and moved the ball more effectively, but they couldn't capitalize on a couple of trips inside the red zone. SDSU settled for a pair of field goal to claim a 6-0 advantage.
BYU's offense didn't reach SDSU territory until midway through the second quarter at the SDSU 49-yard line. Then Lark was sacked, forcing the Cougars to punt.
Nelson entered the game with six minutes left in second quarter. On his second play, Nelson scrambled for 13 yards to convert on third-and-8. But on the next play, Nelson threw a pass that was deflected, then intercepted by safety Eric Pinkins, whose pick-six was negated by an illegal block call. That penalty prevented SDSU from taking a 13-0 advantage.
Long said that penalty was the play of the game. "I believe if we would have scored a touchdown that time, we would have been in the lead the rest of the night."
The series was pretty much emblematic of Nelson's BYU career — a gutty play followed by a turnover.
The Cougar defense stopped San Diego State again, and BYU got the ball back with 2:07 left until halftime.
At that point, Lark returned to the game and promptly led the offense on its longest drive of the game, highlighted by a 38-yard completion over the middle to tight end Devin Mahina to the Aztec 9-yard line with five seconds left in the half. After an incompletion, Justin Sorensen kicked a 23-yard field goal as the half ended to make the score 6-3 for San Diego State.
In the final quarter, the Cougars seemed to roar to life.
"We have a never-give-up attitude we need to finish with," Van Noy said. "I think we finished tonight on all three sides of the ball with the never-give-up attitude, the effort and the playmaking. We put those three finally together and we came out with the win. It feels good to put all three together."
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