Flashback: BYU holds off inspired San Diego State squad, 38-28

Exactly three years ago today, the Brigham Young Cougars were on the road in San Diego for a more competitive than expected game against the San Diego State Aztecs.

A 1-yard touchdown run by Harvey Unga in the first quarter gave BYU a 7-0 lead. Unga would lead BYU in rushing with 81 yards. With his early score, it appeared that this game would be similar to the previous three games between these two schools.

From 2006-08, BYU was 3-0 against the Aztecs, and the average margin of victory in those three games was 27 points. However, under first year head coach Brady Hoke, this wasn’t the same old San Diego State.

San Diego State answered the Unga touchdown before the end of the first quarter. The Aztecs took their only lead of the game less than a minute into the second quarter with a second touchdown. That lead would be short lived.

Senior quarterback Max Hall responded by engineering a 12-play 68-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Kariya.

The game was about to turn into a shootout with San Deigo State threatening to score on its next possession. That threat was averted, though, when Scott Johnson intercepted a pass in the end zone. It was the only turnover by either team in the game, but it would prove to be pivotal.

The BYU offense kept its momentum going from the previous drive. Hall moved the team 79-yards to the one-yard line accounting for 69 total yards (45 passing, 24 rushing) on the drive.

As the clock was ticking down, Hall took it upon himself to go against the coaches direction to spike the ball. He took the snap, took a step back, and then raced for the left corner of the end zone. Hall’s gamble paid off. With no time on the clock he scored to give BYU a 21-14 halftime lead.

Although the Aztecs would tie the game in the third quarter, the combination of Johnson’s interception and Hall’s risky touchdown run changed the complex of the game. It was a 14-point swing, and BYU was in control the rest of the way.

Following San Diego State’s third quarter touchdown that tied the game 21-21, BYU scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to go up 35-21 early in the fourth quarter. Both touchdowns were passes caught by tight ends. Andrew George caught the first one from 19 yards out, and Dennis Pitta caught the second. This time from 9 yards away.  

Hall’s three touchdown passes to three different receivers reflected how balanced the passing attack was. Four receivers caught four passes or more, and each of them had 60 yards or more. Hall finished with 346 yards passing (27 of 39) and 47 yards rushing on 14 carries.

With 8:17 to play, San Diego State would close the gap to one touchdown, but that was as close as they got. BYU added a Mitch Payne field goal with 2:21 left as insurance.

BYU ran the ball 52 times, which helped the Cougars dominate the time of possession, 38:12 to 21:48. It also helped that BYU converted 15 of 21 third downs.

San Diego State had just 20 rushing yards.

The BYU defense was also balanced with six defenders registering four or more tackles, but none more than six.

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