Star Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack had a quiet day. The NCAA career leader in forced fumbles and career co-leader in tackles for loss did have a first-quarter fumble recovery, but he finished with just six tackles and one pass breakup.
Mack, who is expected to be a high first-round pick in the NFL Draft this spring, was consistently double-teamed and chip blocked by San Diego State.
We definitely knew who he was and we made the game plan around him, San Diego State left tackle Bryce Quigley said. We prepared two weeks for (him). Hes a great player.
San Diego States season-long kicking struggles continued when Wes Feer had a 44-yard field goal attempt blocked in the first quarter. The Aztecs, who had not attempted a field goal since Nov. 9, missed eight consecutive tries to end the season. Their last successful attempt came Sept. 28.
On a positive note, Feer tied a Potato Bowl record with seven made extra points in seven tries.
A pivotal play in the game was Marcus Andrews interception of Joe Licata with less than one minute remaining in the second quarter. The Aztecs scored on the next play, turning a 21-10 advantage into a daunting 28-10 halftime hole for the Bulls.
The ball caromed off the hands of leading receiver Alex Neutz, but Licata took the blame for an inaccurate throw on third-and-10.
I threw the ball a little high, and I shouldnt have, Licata said. In that situation, you cant turn the ball over. Its on me.
Milestones for Oliver
Buffalo senior tailback Branden Oliver rushed for 114 yards and added three catches for 22 yards and a TD to earn MVP honors for the Bulls. Oliver surpassed 4,000 career rushing yards and broke his own single-season school rushing record with 1,535 yards.
I didnt do it by myself at all, he said. A big part of that goes to the great offensive line that I have, the defense that gets us the ball back and also the special teams.
Oddly, Olivers 10-yard catch in the second quarter was the first TD reception of his career. He scored 33 career rushing TDs.
Tough day for Boise
Buffalo receiver Boise Ross had a rough day in Boise. The freshman fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, a turnover that led to a San Diego State TD and a 35-10 deficit. Ross returned three kickoffs for 67 yards and one punt for 8 yards.
The teams combined for 176 yards in penalties. San Diego State was flagged 13 times, while Buffalo committed eight penalties. The announced attendance was 21,951, the smallest bowl crowd in Boise since 1998. . Buffalo wore white uniforms, black pants and blue helmets. San Diego State wore all-black uniforms and red helmets. Game time temperature was 30 degrees, with sunny skies. The field was clear of snow, though large piles remained under the bleachers.