San Diego, CA – Kyle Van Noy had a fumble recovery for a touchdown and added a score on an interception in the fourth quarter to lead BYU to a 23-6 win over San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Jamaal Williams scored a touchdown on the ground while James Lark was 23- for-42 with 244 yards and two interceptions for the Cougars (8-5), who won four of their final five games and are winners in their past four bowl games.
"He's a fantastic football player," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Van Noy. "He changed the game for us and was the reason we won."
Adam Dingwell was picked off three times and fumbled twice, finishing the game 12-for-29 with 144 yards for the Aztecs (9-4), who had won their final seven games of the regular season. Adam Muema carried the ball 26 times for 103 yards in the loss.
On the first possession of the fourth quarter, BYU started with the ball at the 50 and was trailing by three points. A 30-yard catch by Cody Hoffman on the first play got the team into scoring position. Facing a 3rd-and-goal at the 4-yard line, Lark's pass wasn't held by Hoffman and King Holder came up with the interception to give SDSU the ball back at its own 3-yard line.
However, the Cougars got a turnover of their own on the next play. Dingwell dropped back into the end zone and had his arm hit by Van Noy, losing the ball. Van Noy then recovered it in the end zone to give the Cougars a 10-6 lead with 12:32 to play.
"Turnovers were huge for us," Van Noy said. "I think that when we got that first turnover, I think that changed the momentum of the game."
Things went from bad to worse on the Aztecs' next play as Dingwell mishandled the snap and BYU recovered at the 14. Williams followed that with a run into the end zone and, after the extra point was missed, it was a 16-6 game with 12:15 to play.
After an exchange of punts, Van Noy again made a big play as he picked off Dingwell and took it into the end zone from 17 yards out for a 23-6 lead with 6:09 to play to seal the win.
"We had a good season, it didn't end the right way," San Diego State coach Rocky Long lamented. "Couple of things happened that might have changed the momentum the other way, they didn't. We turned the ball over way too much in the second half. It's a simple game."
BYU grabbed a turnover on the first possession of the game as a Dingwell pass was tipped by his receiver into the hands of Ezekiel Ansah, who held on to the ball to give the Cougars the ball at their own 36.
BYU was unable to take advantage of the gift and had to punt, with the Aztecs getting the ball back at their own 38 after Riley Stephenson's boot went out of bounds after just 29 yards.
Facing a 3rd-and-9, SDSU converted with a 15-yard catch by Dominique Sandifer. The next play saw a 34-yard catch-and-run by Muema down to the BYU 12. The drive stalled and a 27-yard field goal from Chance Marden gave the team a 3-0 lead with 8:31 to play in the first.
The Aztecs ended the first quarter with the ball and a 15-yard run by Muema on the final play of the quarter moved the ball into Cougars territory. A 24-yard catch by Gavin Escobar moved the ball to the BYU 25. Facing 4th-and-3, the team went for it and got an 8-yard catch by Chad Young. That led to a 23-yard field goal from Marden for a 6-0 lead with 10:46 left in the half.
Following an exchange of punts, SDSU nearly had a touchdown as Eric Pinkins picked off the ball on a deflection and took it into the end zone. An illegal block, though, brought it back to the BYU 29.
The Aztecs wound up losing seven yards in the series and had to punt, which saw the ball go for a touchback.
On 3rd-and-10 from the SDSU 44, Devin Mahina caught a 38-yard pass and BYU called timeout with nine seconds to play. After one shot at the end zone which fell incomplete, Justin Sorensen kicked a 23-yard field goal to end the half at 6-3.
Brigham Young began the second half with the ball and got across midfield, but on a 2nd-and-10 Lark heaved the ball downfield and Rene Siluano picked it off to give it to SDSU at its own 20.
The team didn't get a first down, though, and Seamus McMorrow's punt was partially blocked, giving BYU the ball back at its own 35. The team failed to get a first down, though, and punted the ball back.
BYU improved to 13-17-1 in bowl contests ... San Diego State fell to 5-6 in bowl action ... BYU holds a 28-7-1 in the series, including wins in six straight ... Hoffman led all receivers with 10 catches for 114 yards.