FORT COLLINS — Ryan Lindley has never been about himself during his career at San Diego State. That didn’t change after he reached school and conference milestones Saturday.
“It is a great thing, obviously, a culmination of what we’ve, not me, accomplished in the last four years,” Lindley said after an 18-15 victory over Colorado State. “It is a lot deeper than me.”
Abelardo Perez kicked a 37-yard field goal with 5:49 left, and Lindley threw for 154 yards and a touchdown.
Lindley improved to 11,494 career passing yards to pass former BYU quarterback Max Hall’s 11,365 for the Mountain West Conference record and Todd Santos’ 11,425 for the San Diego State mark.
“I’ve had great protection for four years,” Lindley said. “This is a group of guys that are tough, and they take pride in that.”
His day was accomplished under less-than-ideal circumstances. Temperatures dipped into the low 40s, and throwing the ball was made difficult by swirling 21-mph winds.
“He deserves the record,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. “He probably would have thrown for another 100-and-something yards if we don’t drop any passes.”
Ronnie Hillman, the nation’s second-leading rusher, ran for 80 yards on 24 carries for San Diego State (6-3, 3-2 Mountain West). He was limited in the second half by a sprained ankle.
Colorado State’s Chris Nwoke had better numbers, rushing 22 times for 232 yards and a touchdown. It was the fifth best all time for a Rams running back but well back of Tony Alford’s 310-yard output against Utah in 1989.
Colorado State (3-6, 1-3) lost quarterback Pete Thomas to a strained left knee early in the second quarter. The Rams have dropped five straight.
The game was tied 15-15 before the Aztecs mixed the pass and the run to reach the Colorado State 20.
Perez, who had missed from 22 and 44 yards earlier, was right down the middle.
“He made the one that counted,” Long said of Perez. “The one that won us the game.”
Nwoke scored on the game’s fifth possession. He broke through a huge hole off left tackle and ran away from the San Diego State defense on a 63-yard scoring run. That was the Rams’ longest running play since Gartrell Johnson ran for a 77-yard TD in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl.
“Great holes,” said Nwoke. “Without those holes, I definitely would not have been in position (to make big plays).”
But the lead was short-lived. Brandon Davis ran back the ensuing kickoff to the San Diego State 48. Thirteen plays later, Alston Umuolo caught a 4-yard pass from Lindley with 21 seconds left in the first quarter. The Aztecs made a two-point conversion when Colorado State linebacker Shaquil Barrett batted the ball into the hands of Chad Young in the end zone.
San Diego State’s Walter Kazee bulled over from the 1 to increase the lead to 15-7 midway through the second quarter.
Nwoke appeared to set up the Rams to score when he ran 67 yards to the San Diego State 20. But Thomas’ replacement, Garrett Grayson, fumbled while scrambling, and the Aztecs’ Miles Burris recovered.
San Diego State let a scoring chance slip away at the end of the half when Perez hit the left upright on a 22-yard field goal attempt.
Perez was wide left from 44 yards out with 4:50 to go in the third quarter. The Rams had the ball for only four plays in the period.
Colorado State tied it at 15 with 9:45 to go, benefitting from two personal fouls, to set up Grayson’s sneak from the 1. Grayson broke a pair of tackles to get the two-point conversion and tie the game.