PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – In what could very well be his final game at LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson went out on a high note.
Wilson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns, as #18 BYU wrapped up a historic regular season with a 28-14 victory over San Diego State.
Lopini Katoa added 130 all-purpose yards for the Cougars. BYU (10-1, no. 18 CFP) shut out the Aztecs over the final three quarters.
“These guys are resilient, they’re hard workers,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “I just love the way that they respond to anything that has any type of adversity.The leadership that we saw from those guys, it’s really a great thing for me as a coach to see, so I’m thankful that I had these players. I’m thinking that we have a great bunch of leaders and not just the seniors, we have a bunch of leaders on our team.”
Jordon Brookshire threw for 230 yards and a touchdown to lead San Diego State. Kaegun Williams added 92 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Aztecs (4-4, 4-2 Mountain West) gave up 21 unanswered points after taking a first-quarter lead.
BYU got stops and forced turnovers at critical junctures to stay a step ahead of San Diego State.
Still, the Cougars did not create sufficient breathing room until a 20-yard diving catch by Isaac Rex gave them a 28-14 lead with 10:53 remaining. Rex’s touchdown came after Brookshire got stopped on a 4th down run at the BYU 28 a few plays earlier.
“I’ve just been really proud of our whole defense, but the linebacking crewhas worked really well together,” Sitake said. “I’m just proud of the things that they’ve done. It looked really tough at the beginning, but these guys are showing that they’ll keep fighting, and a lot of that is because their assistant coaches and the coordinators and a lot of it’s because of the leadership that we have on this team.”
The Aztecs had a shot to cut the deficit in half after driving to the BYU 1. Brookshire tripped and fell when he cut toward the end zone on 4th-and-goal, turning it over on downs with 2:51 left.
“It was a battle,” said wide receiver Neil Pau’u. “It was for sure a cold game. We knew those possessions we would get would be limited because of the offense they run, so when we had those possessions, we needed to treasure them and continue to roll and do what we know we could do.”
BYU marched down the field on its opening possession. Wilson completed five passes, culminating in a 5-yard toss to Dax Milne, to give the Cougars a quick 7-0 lead.
San Diego State wasted no time taking control through the rest of the first quarter.
The Aztecs evened the score when Williams bounced outside and raced 25 yards to the end zone. Then, after gaining a first down on a fake field goal attempt, San Diego State surged ahead 14-7 on a diving 15-yard catch by Elijah Kothe.
BYU tied it up on Wilson’s 2-yard strike to Isaac Rex in the second quarter. Lopini Katoa burst through the line and sprinted 43 yards on 4th-and-1 to set up the scoring play. The Cougars went back ahead 17-14 when Jake Oldroyd made a 50-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
Both teams scored off turnovers during the first half.
Tariq Thompson recovered a fumble from Isaac Rex at the BYU 33 to set up Koithe’s touchdown grab after Michael Shawcroft stripped the ball from the Cougar tight end.
Drew Jensen snagged his first career interception when he picked off Brookshire’s pass at the BYU 20-yard line just as the Aztecs appeared poised to add to their lead. It opened the door for Rex’s touchdown catch a few plays later.
“I’m super proud of the whole defense,” said defensive lineman Zac Dawe. “Everyone was rallying and doing their job and sometimes things weren’t going our way, but we were bending but wouldn’t break. Everyone showed effort, especially down on the goal line. Caden Haws stepped up big. Bracken El-Bakri grinded his guts out. All the other players really stepped up in crucial moments and I think that was the difference in the game.”
With no games currently remaining on its schedule, BYU will now wait a bowl game invitation.