PROVO, Utah (AP) — BYU did not let an opponent with a tough defense get the upper hand again.
Zach Wilson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns to lead the no. 14 Cougars to a 28-14 victory over San Diego State on Saturday.
Lopini Katoa added 130 all-purpose yards in place of usual starting running back Tyler Allgeier, who was sidelined with an undisclosed illness. BYU (10-1, no. 18 CFP) shut out the Aztecs over the final three quarters.
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.
“It looked really tough at the beginning,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “But these guys have shown they’ll keep fighting.”
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.
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.
“They’re a great defensive team,” Brookshire said. “With their coverage, they easily drop under things so it’s hard to push the ball down the field.”
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.
“Defense did what they were supposed to do,” BYU receiver Neil Pau’u said. “Thankful we were able to put a drive together.”
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.
“We were bending but we didn’t break,” BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe said.
San Diego State: The Aztecs strung together a series of long drives but had little to show for it in the end. San Diego State had turnovers end promising drives in the second quarter and third quarter. Then, the Aztecs went 0-of-2 on fourth down deep in BYU territory in the fourth quarter to allow the Cougars to pull away.
BYU: The Cougars got gashed for long stretches on defense. Still, BYU produced enough stops to allow Wilson to work his magic on offense. It allowed the Cougars to earn 10 wins in a season for the first time since 2011.
Oldroyd made two field goals against San Diego State, making him 13 for 13 on the season. The Lou Groza Award semifinalist is only the second BYU kicker with five or more career field goals of 50 yards or longer. He has three field goals from 50 yards or longer this season alone.
“I love the way he’s been kicking all year long,” Sitake said. “He’s been money for us.”
Wilson passed Taysom Hill for No. 11 in all-time passing yards at BYU. The junior eclipsed the 7,000-yard mark in career passing yards during the first quarter and now has tallied 7,234 career passing yards in three seasons with the Cougars.
AIRING IT OUT
Brookshire had his first career 200-yard passing game for San Diego State. It marked just the second time this season that the Aztecs finished with at least 200 passing yards in a game. Former starting quarterback Carson Baker totaled 261 passing yards in a 28-17 loss to San Jose State in November.
BYU could move up a spot or two after a hard-fought win over San Diego State.
San Diego State has concluded its regular season.
BYU has concluded its regular season.