In one of the most impressive defensive performances in bowl history, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy was in the middle of everything as he recorded 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, a 17-yard interception and return for a touchdown, and a blocked punt.
Turnovers and field position were the headlines for three quarters, with San Diego State taking a slim 6-3 lead into the fourth quarter. Both offenses were able to move the ball to midfield early in the game, but their drives consistently stalled there. At game’s end, the teams combined for eight turnovers and 14 punts. BYU punter Riley Stephenson had an outstanding game, downing six punts inside the 20-yard line, and four punts inside the 3.
After battling much of the first two quarters, the Aztecs were holding on to a 6-0 lead when the Cougars regained possession at their own 24-yard line with just under six minutes left in the half. On the fourth play of the drive, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson was intercepted by Aztecs’ defensive back Eric Pinkins, who took it all the way to the endzone. But an illegal block was called away from the play and SDSU was given the ball at the BYU 29-yard line. The Aztecs offense once again failed to advance the ball, and were forced to punt the ball away. Two minutes and 12 plays later, BYU kicked a field goal as time expired in the half, cutting the SDSU lead to 6-3.
The third quarter saw no scoring, as BYU quarterback James Lark threw an interception to open the half, the second interception in the last three drives for BYU. On the ensuing possession, BYU forced a quick three-and-out from the SDSU offense, which set up Van Noy’s blocked punt.
BYU looked poised to score to begin the fourth quarter with a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line, but Lark threw the team’s third interception of the game at the goal line. That’s when Van Noy took scoring matters into his own hands. On the very next play, he came streaking from the outside on a blitz and knocked the ball out of SDSU quarterback Adam Dingwell’s hands and recovered it in the endzone to give the Cougars their first lead of the night, 10-6.
After the ensuing kickoff, the wheels began to fall off for Dingwell and the Aztecs, as he fumbled the ball, giving it back to BYU at the SDSU 14-yard line. The very next play saw freshman running back Jamaal Williams take the ball right up the middle for a touchdown. The extra point missed wide though, leaving the Aztecs down ten points with over 12 minutes to play.
After trading punts, the Aztecs took over at their own 9-yard line with 6:29 remaining, needing a drive and a score to stay in the game. But once again, the hero of the day stepped up, as Van Noy intercepted Dingwell and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown, stretching the lead to 23-6.
BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman, who finished the game with 10 receptions and 114 receiving yards, earned the game’s Offensive MVP honors.