San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey broke the NCAA career rushing record Saturday in his college finale, running for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Aztecs' victory.
Pumphrey passed former Wisconsin star Ron Dayne's mark of 6,397 yards on a 15-yard run early in the fourth quarter, with teammates swarming him on the sideline, and wrapping up his sensational career in his Nevada hometown with 6,405 yards.
"It means the world to me," Pumphrey said as his father wiped away tears before hugging him.
Pumphrey's senior total of 2,133 yards rushing ranks in the top 10 for a FBS player.
Ron Smith returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown, Curtis Anderson caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Christian Chapman, Juwan Washington ran for a touchdown, and John Baron kicked two field goals for the Aztecs (11-3). They overcame a 10-0 first-quarter deficit against the Cougars (9-4) for their second consecutive bowl win.
Neither the victory nor Pumphrey's record-setting performance seemed likely after Houston's defense absolutely smothered the Aztecs in the first quarter. Led by freshman Ed Oliver, Houston had seven tackles for loss on San Diego State's first 16 plays. Pumphrey had 1 yard rushing on seven carries in the first quarter and the Aztecs didn't have a first down until the first play of the second quarter - on a penalty for running into the kicker.
But Pumphrey started to gash Houston on the perimeter, giving San Diego State the lead for good on a 32-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, and the defense intercepted four of Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr.'s passes in the second half.
Ward threw for 229 yards and had a 2-yard touchdown run, tying Bryce Beall's school record of 39 rushing touchdowns.
San Diego State The running game for the Aztecs was historic. Not only did Pumphrey set NCAA and school records, but Rashaad Penny topped the 1,000-yard mark to give SDSU the first college backfieldl with a 2,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season.
Houston: Oliver is the real deal, finishing his remarkable freshman season with 23 tackles for loss and five sacks. With his knack for delivering in the showcase games - Oliver had 8 1/2 tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble against Oklahoma, Louisville and SDSU - it wouldn't be a surprise if his second season ended with national awards.
SDSU: The Aztecs must replace four starters on the offensive line, but should be contenders to defend their Mountain West title for a third consecutive season with a strong group of returning skill players.
Houston: After dropping his first game as head coach, Major Applewhite must build a staff. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is set to join Tom Herman at Texas, and the American Athletic Conference is not lacking for offensive firepower.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
COVERAGE FROM THE LAS VEGAS BOWL: