BYU football looked like its former self Saturday night in San Diego — as in its Toledo/South Florida former self — as the Cougars fell to the Aztecs 13-3 in a sloppy offensive display.
The first quarter was a defensive slug fest, with a Skyler Southam field goal the lone points at the end of the quarter. The field goal was set up by an Aleva Hifo punt return into plus territory before he tossed a double pass to Matt Bushman to get BYU inside the 10.
An interception thrown by Zach Wilson would set up a short field for the Aztecs to end the quarter deep in BYU territory. BYU’s defense would come up with a big fourth down stand at the start of the second quarter, something the defense tends to do in short yardage situations in recent years.
BYU struggled offensively in the first half against the tough SDSU defense. The Aztecs’ offense finally clicked on their last drive of the half, capped by a touchdown as Carson Baker threw up the seam to Daniel Bellinger, who ran into the end zone. The Aztecs took a 7-3 lead into halftime.
BYU’s offensive struggles continued into the third quarter, leading to a punt. The Aztecs would get the ball back and march down the field, ending the drive in a 44-yard field goal by Matt Araiza to give the Aztecs a 10-3 lead.
BYU did finally get the ball moving again until the Cougars tried a flea-flicker in SDSU territory. A defensive end came wide around the back and was in perfect position to strip Wilson before he threw the flea-flicker attempt, and the Aztecs recovered the fumble.
But BYU’s defense would stop the Aztecs again, giving the offense the ball again to start the fourth quarter. BYU would drive down inside the 20 only for the offense to stall again. Southam’s chip-shot field goal hit the upright, resulting in zero points for the Cougars again and another missed field goal, BYU’s eighth miss of the season.
SDSU would pass over the BYU secondary and extend their lead to 13-3 with 5:46 left in the game with a field goal.
A second interception and third turnover from Zach Wilson with 4:43 left would kill another BYU drive, and SDSU held the ball long enough to make BYU burn all three timeouts before pinning the Cougars down at the 1-yard line on a punt.
A late BYU drive got inside the 10 yard line again, with the Cougars AGAIN walking away empty handed as Southam missed another chip shot field goal.
BYU ends the regular season 15 of 24 on field goals, and made just 5 of the final 13 attempts in the season.
The game resembled much of what fans experienced in the losses at Toledo and South Florida. Drive-killing penalties, turnovers and poor decisions hurt the Cougars from start to finish. BYU was simply outplayed and out-coached by the Aztecs.
Wilson threw 31 of 53 on the evening for 316 yards but the Cougars failed to score a touchdown for the first time all season.
BYU finishes the regular season 7-5, while the Aztecs improve to 9-3. BYU now waits to learn its opponent in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.