The San Diego State football team had to beat both Colorado State and Mother Nature if it wanted to win on Saturday night in Fort Collins and become bowl eligible for the second season in a row. That’s exactly what SDSU did, recording an 18-15 victory against the Rams (3-6, 1-3 Mountain West) with hurling winds all night.
Although both sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman and junior running back Walter Kazee sustained injuries in the game, senior kicker Abel Perez nailed a 37-yard field goal to give the Aztecs a three-point lead with 5:49 left and SDSU was able to hold on for the win.
“We got through it,” senior quarterback Ryan Lindley said. “A win is a win. It was a team win, though. Guys had to step up, out of it all. We did a good job running the ball in the fourth quarter, and we did what it took to win.”
With his 154-yard, one-touchdown performance, Lindley passed Aztec legend Todd Santos for the school’s all-time passing yard record (11,494 career yards), tied Santos for career starts (45) and became the Mountain West Conference’s all-time passing leader.
“He is an excellent quarterback and I think he is going to be in the NFL,” head coach Rocky Long said. “His leadership qualities on our team are as important as his ability as a quarterback. He deserves the record (all-time Mountain West passing leader). He probably would’ve thrown for another 100-and-something yards if we didn’t drop any passes.”
Gusts of wind scattered garbage across the field and made it hard to kick field goals or catch passes.
“Wind has a dramatic effect on a football game,” Long said of the weather conditions. “If you always have the wind at your back, you have the opportunity to have some real success with the wind, but it changed about every five minutes. It was in your face one minute and at your back the next.”
“It was pretty gusty,” Lindley added. “It was blowing a little bit as you can see, but it looked like a dust devil of trash.”
Although Perez missed on two of his previous field goal attempts, he was able to nail the eventual game-winner.
“The one he made won us the game,” Long said. “It would’ve been easier to win the game if he would’ve made the other two but he didn’t. He made the one that counted, the one that helped us win the game.”
The SDSU defense survived CSU running back Chris Nwoke’s 232 rushing yards and touchdown and came up with two big turnovers – a Nat Berhe interception and Miles Burris fumble recovery – when it mattered.
“(Nwoke) did a great job,” Long said. “He broke some tackles. He ran through us, over us and made yardage. I thought the defense came up big time. It came up big time at the end. It came up big with two turnovers when they were in scoring position. Overall the defense played really well.”
SDSU takes on Boise State at 5 p.m. Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium.