JJ Di Luigi rushed for career-high 134 yards and a touchdown and Bryan Kariya ran for another 85 yards and two touchdowns as BYU avoided a 40-year low with a 24-21 win over San Diego State.
Di Luigi finished a bruising 19-play opening drive with a three-yard touchdown run as the Cougars (2-4, 1-1 Mountain West) snapped a four-game losing streak. The last time BYU lost five in a row in a single season was 1970.
Kariya scored on a two-yard run late in the first quarter and a one-yard burst early in the fourth quarter that gave BYU a 24-14 lead.
Ryan Lindley threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns for San Diego State (3-2, 0-1), which came into the game ranked 24th in the nation in rushing.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall called the defensive plays for the first time since firing defensive coordinator Jaime Hill last week, and the Cougars held the Aztecs to minus-2 yards rushing in the first half and 53 for the game.
The BYU defense got plenty of help from the methodical running of Di Luigi and Kariya, who allowed the Cougars to hold the ball for more than 45 minutes. BYU gained a season-high 271 yards rushing on 62 carries, the most carries for the program since a 1996 victory over Utah.
Freshman Joshua Quezada added 50 yards on 11 carries, both career highs.
Lindley's third touchdown pass pulled San Diego State within three at 24-21 with 6:27 to play, but BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree broke up a third-down pass with just more than three minutes left and the Cougars ran out the clock.
BYU led 14-0 after its first two possessions, thanks to two big plays. The long opening drive was kept alive by a fake field goal when holder Matt Marshall completed a 16-yard pass to Mike Muehlmann. Di Luigi's touchdown was the 11th play of the drive, which lasted eight-and-a-half minutes.
On the first play after the kickoff, Ogletree intercepted Lindley and returned the ball to the San Diego State 24.
Five plays later, Kariya scored on a two-yard run up the middle.
Aztec defensive back Leon McFadden kept BYU from going up 21-0 by intercepting a Jake Heaps pass in the end zone in the second quarter.
Lindley completed 20 of 34 passes and touchdown passes of 36 yards to Vincent Brown, one yard to Gavin Escobar and four yards to Brandon Sullivan.
Brown caught six passes for 101 yards.
The Aztecs cut BYU's lead to 14-7 with a quick strike before halftime. A shanked punt gave San Diego State the ball at its 48, and Lindley hit Brown for 16 yards on the first play and then 36 yards and a touchdown on the next.
Mitch Payne's 29-yard field goal in the third quarter gave BYU a 17-7 lead. Payne also passed Kurt Gunther to become BYU's career leader in PATs with 165.
The Aztecs had a single rushing yard midway through the third quarter when they finally got a big run play from Ronnie Hillman, who bolted 38 yards to the BYU 4. A play-action pass to Escobar pulled San Diego State within 17-14.