San Diego State strikes again in Potato Bowl

The Aztecs knock off Buffalo for another win in Bronco Stadium.

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANDecember 22, 2013 

— The San Diego State football team is starting to feel at home on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.

Junior tailback Adam Muema rushed for 229 yards and three TDs Saturday as the Aztecs rolled to a 49-24 victory over Buffalo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. San Diego State, which topped Boise State at home last year, improved to 2-0 on the blue - and the Aztecs will be back in Boise for a Mountain West Conference showdown next fall.

"It's a great atmosphere," San Diego State receiver Colin Lockett said. "I don't know if it's the turf or the stadium, but we were just excited to get out there and play."

Muema, who did not speak to the media after the game, earned Potato Bowl MVP honors. The explosive junior averaged 8.2 yards per carry and scored on runs of 3, 8 and 30 yards, helping the Aztecs win a bowl game away from home for the first time since 1969.

"I thought that was the best game we played all year," San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. "Going into the game, I thought the turnover battle would decide who won, and that's exactly what happened."

Grabbing three turnovers - and scoring TDs after all three - provided an unexpected boost for the Aztecs. San Diego State (8-5) came into the game 118th nationally in turnover margin, while Buffalo (8-5) ranked fourth.

"Going against their defense and seeing the numbers on paper, you kind of get a little jealous," SDSU defensive back Nat Berhe said. "We wanted to play better than them."

While Muema did most of the damage, SDSU turned to a less-heralded runner to draw first blood late in the first quarter. Quarterback Quinn Kaehler, who came into the game with 71 net yards rushing this season, went around the right end on a designed bootleg keeper, made a nifty sidestep move in the open field and rumbled down the hash marks for a 29-yard touchdown, giving SDSU a lead it would never surrender.

"I had no idea he could make someone miss, because he couldn't make any of our guys miss (in practice)," Long said. "But it was sure nice to see it happen."

San Diego State capitalized on two second-quarter Buffalo turnovers to take control. The first came when Vaness Harris sacked Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata and Cody Galea recovered at the Bulls' 30. Six plays later, Muema's 3-yard TD run made it 14-0.

After Buffalo rallied for with Branden Oliver TD catch and a field goal, San Diego State went up 21-10 on an 8-yard run by Muema with 1:11 left in the half. Moments later, Licata was intercepted deep in Buffalo territory by Marcus Andrews.

Kaehler delivered a dagger on the next play, hitting Dylan Denso for a 25-yard touchdown and a 28-10 halftime lead.

"You can't turn the ball over and expect to beat a good football team," Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said. "(San Diego State) played well and we obviously didn't late in the second quarter. We didn't take care of the ball."

The turnover bug bit the Bulls again in the third quarter. Return man Boise Ross fumbled away the second-half kickoff and Kaehler cashed in five plays later, firing an 11-yard TD pass to tight end Adam Roberts to make it 35-10.

The SDSU ground attack took it from there, grinding out yardage and clock while tacking on TD runs by Muema and Chad Young. The Aztecs finished with 249 yards rushing, while Kaehler threw for 211 and two TDs.

Licata threw for 196 yards and three TDs for Buffalo. Oliver added 136 total yards for the Bulls.

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