SAN DIEGO - For the longest time, it seemed as if the Poinsettia Bowl was going to be touchdown-free.
A field-position struggle resulted in only three field goals going into the fourth quarter.
Then junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy stepped up and scored two touchdowns on turnovers, leading Brigham Young to a 23-6 victory over San Diego State on Thursday.
Three takeaways directly led to the Cougars' 20-0 scoring edge in the final quarter.
"Turnovers were huge for us," said Van Noy, a Reno native. "I think when we got that first turnover, that changed the momentum of the game."
With San Diego State pinned on its 3-yard line after terrific punt coverage by Brigham Young, Adam Dingwell dropped back to pass in the end zone. Van Noy broke free from the outside, knocked the ball out of Dingwell's hand and jumped on it for the game's first touchdown and a 10-6 Cougars lead.
"I wouldn't make those plays if all 11 guys weren't doing what they were doing," Van Noy said. "The ball just happened to land in my lap."
Dingwell fumbled the snap on San Diego State's next play from scrimmage and Jordan Johnson recovered for Brigham Young at the 14. Jamaal Williams scored on a run up the middle on the next play for the Cougars' second touchdown in 17 seconds.
With 6:09 remaining, Van Noy intercepted Dingwell's pass and weaved 17 yards through traffic and into the end zone. Van Noy was selected the game's defensive Most Valuable Player.
"He's a fantastic football player," Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "He changed the game for us and was the reason we won."
The Cougars (8-5) won for the sixth straight time against San Diego State, a former rival from the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences. Brigham Young went independent in football after the 2010 season.
San Diego State (9-4), playing in the hometown bowl for the second time in three years, missed the chance for its first 10-win season since 1977 and had its seven-game winning streak snapped.
Dingwell finished with five turnovers, including three interceptions. Four of his turnovers were in the fourth quarter.
As pivotal as the defensive plays were for the Cougars, their punt unit pinned the Aztecs deep four times in the second half. Brigham Young downed two punts by senior Riley Stephenson at the 1, one at the 2 and another at the 3. They were among the six punts inside the 20.
Stephenson "changed the game," Mendenhall said. ""And he could have easily been the MVP."
Aztecs coach Rocky Long agreed.
"I don't know who got the Most Valuable Player, but I'll tell you who I thought the Most Valuable Player was, was their punter," Long said. "Field position made it tough on the offense."
San Diego State led 6-3 at halftime thanks to Chance Marden's field goals of 27 and 23 yards. Justin Sorensen kicked a 23-yarder for Brigham Young.
Cougars starting quarterback James Lark completed 23 of 42 passes for 244 yards and was intercepted twice. Cody Hoffman caught 10 passes for 114 yards and was named offensive Most Valuable Player.
Dingwell completed 12 of 29 for 144 yards for the Aztecs, and Adam Muema rushed for 103 yards on 26 carries.