In his first career start, freshman David Nixon recorded six solo tackles, including two tackles for a combined loss of 10 yards, in the Cougars' 44-36 win over San Diego State. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
SAN DIEGO -- After three straight low-scoring defensive battles, the BYU (3-3, 2-1) offense exploded for 418 yards and 44 points in an eight-point victory over San Diego State (3-3, 0-1) on Saturday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
Over the past three games, including one win and two losses, the Cougar offense combined to score a total of 34 points. Saturday's 44 points marks the most points scored by BYU since posting 45 points in last season's opener against Syracuse.
Coach Gary Crowton said he was pleased with how his team played against San Diego State, but he still feels there is room left for improvement.
"It feels good to win the game, I can tell you that," Crowton said. "I believe that we are constantly improving and gaining experience and it was nice that we did some good things today. Two good defenses going in and both offenses have struggled at times. Then, all of a sudden, you have a high-scoring game like this. That's why you have to come to play."
On the Cougars' first possession on the game, quarterback John Beck fumbled the ball. SDSU's Brook Miller scooped up the fumble and ran for a touchdown to give the Aztecs a 7-0 lead less than one minute into the game.
"We made some mistakes tonight," Crowton added. "We can still get better. It's nice to make a few mistakes, but still win. I think some of the turnovers we had tonight kept us from scoring a little more."
Later in the first quarter, BYU tied the score at seven on a four-yard run by Beck. The touchdown was the Cougars' first rushing touchdown in 30 quarters, and was the first rushing touchdown allowed by the SDSU defense all season. Beck completed two passes on the drive for 34 yards and rushed for 12 yards, including the score.
After the game, Beck said film study during the week allowed coaches to see situations that would expose the SDSU defense on the quarterback draw.
"If everyone got their blocks and I read it right, I knew it'd be a good gain," Beck said.
Beck finished the game 17-of-26 for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 16 times for 48 yards and one score.
San Diego State answered on the next series on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Adam Hall to Jeff Webb. Hall and Webb hooked up 10 times for 253 yards and three touchdowns -- the highest single-game yardage total of the season by a Division-IA player.
BYU went on to score 14 straight points to take a 21-14 lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Beck to Fahu Tahi and a school-record 95-yard run by Rey Brathwaite.
Brathwaite's run was the longest run from scrimmage and also the longest run for a score in Cougar history. Brathwaite finished the game with 19 rushes for 144 yards.
"I wasn't going to run out of gas this time," Brathwaite said, comparing his 95-yard run to an 89-yard run earlier this season. "The altitude had a little to do with it last time, but I have to give credit to the offensive line. And Fahu [Tahi} had a great block, I just followed him through."
The Aztecs tied the game at 21 on another Hall-to-Webb touchdown connection. BYU came back to score 10 straight, putting the Cougars up 31-21 with just over 1:00 left in the first half. BYU's final touchdown of the half came on 13-yard fumble recovery by linebacker Colby Bockwoldt. The defensive touchdown marked the third staight game at Qualcomm Stadium the Cougars have scored a defensive touchdown ('99, Hans Olson; '01, Isaac Kelley; '03, Colby Bockwoldt.) Bockwoldt also recorded an interception and a sack in the game.
San Diego State added a field goal as time expired in the first half to bring the score to 31-24.
BYU scored the first 10 points of the second half, including Tahi's second touchdown reception and Matt Payne's second field goal, putting BYU up 41-24. Trailing by 17 points, the Aztecs mounted a comeback, scoring the game's next 12 points.
But BYU's defense stiffened, and Payne would add his third field goal to ice the 44-36 victory -- an 18-yarder with 2:18 left in the game.
With the win, the Cougars improve to 3-3 on the season, including a 2-1 mark in league play. BYU will return to Provo for a short week before playing host to Colorado State on Thursday, Oct. 9. Game time is slated for 8 p.m. (MT).