SAN DIEGO When San Diego State quarterback Kevin O'Connell finished his college career with a flourish Saturday against BYU, it wasn't the first time he played well against the Cougars.
In the Aztecs' 48-27 loss to BYU on Saturday, the 6-foot-6 senior completed 33 of 55 passes for 288 yards, one touchdown and an interception while also rushing for 61 yards and two more touchdowns.
Historically speaking, O'Connell excelling against the Cougars is no revelation. In 2004 as a true freshman, he rushed for 101 yards in a 49-16 loss to BYU in Provo. The next year, O'Connell led the Aztecs to a 31-10 home victory over the Cougars, making him the only SDSU quarterback in the past eight seasons to beat BYU.
O'Connell, who missed the 2006 contest against the Cougars with an injury, exercised much patience in his final time facing BYU. With the SDSU defense utterly incapable of stopping the Cougar ground game and BYU seemingly stockpiling points by the dozen, O'Connell faced the temptation of trying to engineer quick-strike drives. But BYU frequently employed deep zones in its defensive pass coverage, and so O'Connell kept content moving the chains with a series of scrambles and shorter passes underneath.
"It's hard to (be patient) for a whole game when you're looking at them putting points on the board like they were," O'Connell said. "You want to take the big play, you want to take every little way to put points on the board, but sometimes that's a 14-play drive."
Against the Cougars, O'Connell excelled under pressure. On third downs, he connected on 76.9 percent (10-for-13) of his passes, and one of his two rushing touchdowns came on fourth down.
O'Connell's last game as an Aztec propelled him into rarefied statistical air. His 7,689 yards passing put him third in the SDSU record book, while he ranks second with 9,001 yards of total offense. O'Connell leads all Aztecs quarterbacks in both rushing yards (1,312) and touchdown runs (19), and in 2007 he became the first SDSU signal-caller to ever lead the team in both passing (3,063 yards) and rushing (408 yards) over an entire season.