Aztecs rush to Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeDecember 22, 2013


BOISE, Idaho -- San Diego State junior running back Adam Muema, playing what is likely to be his last college game, rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns as the Aztecs rolled past Buffalo 49-24 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday.
Muema, who tweeted earlier in the week that he was headed to the NFL but quickly deleted it, was named the game's MVP after gaining the third-most rushing yards in the bowl's 17-game history. He scored on touchdowns runs of 3, 8 and 30 yards on 28 carries for San Diego State (8-5).
"I told him to make an informed decision but make the decision that is right for him and I'm sure that's what he'll do," San Diego State coach Rocky Long said after the game. "He looked like he was healthy and he ran very well."
Muema did not speak to the media this week or after the game.
Junior quarterback Quinn Kaehler, a walk-on who helped rescue San Diego State's season after a dismal 0-3 start, threw two touchdown passes and rushed for one touchdown, his first rushing score of the season.
Kaehler's 29-yard run around the right end opened the scoring in the first quarter. Muema pushed it to 14-0 with a 3-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Buffalo cut the deficit to 14-10 in the second quarter, but San Diego State scored three touchdowns in 2:32 at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second to extend its lead to 35-10.
Buffalo (8-5) turned the ball over twice in that span -- an interception by quarterback Joe Licata and a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half by Boise Ross.
"I threw the ball a little bit high and I shouldn't have. In that situation, you can't turn the ball over," said Licata, who completed 13-of-30 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. "That's on me."
Buffalo, making just its second bowl appearance in school history, turned the ball over three times. All three led to San Diego State touchdowns. The Bulls entered the game with just 12 turnovers this season, the fifth-lowest total in the nation.
"We didn't take care of the ball and that obviously put them in a better position to put points on the board," said Jeff Quinn, Buffalo's fourth-year coach.
Turnovers had been a negative for San Diego State, which ranked 113th nationally in turnover margin at minus-12.
"It's the best game we played all year. We moved the ball well. We caused some turnovers. I said going into the game that I thought the turnover battle would decide who won," Long said. "We happened to be on the right side of the turnovers."
Buffalo forced a fumble on San Diego State's second possession with All-America linebacker Khalil Mack recovering. But the Buffalo offense, as was the case for most of the game, did little. The Bulls didn't achieve its first first-down until the second quarter.
Branden Oliver, Buffalo's career rushing leader, had 114 yards on 28 carries.
Mack, the NCAA's career leader in forced fumbles (16) and tied for the NCAA lead in tackles for loss (75.0), was largely a non-factor. An expected first-round NFL Draft pick, Mack had six tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
San Diego State was making its fourth consecutive bowl appearance, a school record.
But the Aztecs have had to work to do it.
San Diego State won five games in which it trailed in the fourth quarter, three games when it trailed by more than 14 points and three games in overtime. The Aztecs' largest margin of victory this season had been 10 points -- and had six victories by seven points or fewer.
"We decided that tonight we were going to play up to our abilities and it showed," senior safety Nat Berhe said. "It's kind of sad we didn't play like that all year. I'm glad it happened in the game it did."
NOTES: The game attracted 21,951 fans to Bronco Stadium, the third-smallest crowd in the history of Boise's bowl. ... San Diego State was making its fourth consecutive bowl appearance, a school record. ... Buffalo was just its second bowl appearance in school history.