FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- San Jose State fed off the energy and performance of a walk-on redshirt freshman to beat Colorado State 34-27 on Saturday.
Jarrod Lawson, a non-scholarship player from Valley Christian High-San Jose, rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown, and caught three passes for 104 yards and a score to power the Spartans' win before 26,022 at Hughes Stadium.
Lawson's role has increased due to injuries to starter Tyler Ervin and others, and the powerful 5-foot-8, 188-pounder has risen to the occasion.
"He's just a sparkplug," coach Ron Caragher said. "He runs the ball well, he catches the ball well."
And he inspires the team, which can't help but draw off the effort of a walk-on who's emerging into a key player.
"He's just a guy that never gives up," said quarterback David Fales, who had his best game of the season. "It's exciting, just being a walk-on. You look at him at how powerful and hard he runs, it's the passion he brings."
Lawson said his walk-on status definitely allows him to play with a chip on his shoulder.
"I feel like every game I'm fighting for something," he said. "Every game I'm fighting to maybe earn a scholarship. I'm fighting for my life and that's how I look at it. I'm a player like anybody else. If I'm a walk-on, if I'm on scholarship, I'm still just playing."
Fales completed 28 of 35 passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 62-yard pass to true freshman Tyler Winston with 5:36 to play. He directed an offense that produced a season-high 608 yards.
"Our offense was in sync," Fales said. "We were all on the same page."
It was the most complete performance of the season for San Jose State (3-3, 2-1 Mountain West), which has won two games in a row and has beaten Colorado State (2-4, 0-1) three straight years.
The game was tied four times and had five lead changes as the Spartans earned a road win.
"On the road, down, having to fight back four times and get the lead against a good team, we answered the call," Caragher said. "Just real proud of the young men."
SJSU trailed 24-17 at halftime, but the Spartans defense was much better in the second half.
In the third quarter, the Rams moved deep into SJSU territory when the defense finally delivered a big play as Jimmy Pruitt intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone.
A seven-minute drive for SJSU followed and Austin Lopez made an 18-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 27-24 lead with 12:30 left.
CSU answered with Jared Roberts' 47-yard field goal and the Spartans' stalled on their next possession. But the defense rose to the occasion again as Bené Benwikere celebrated a successful return to the lineup with an interception.
"This is definitely a big statement game that we were able to make plays," said Benwikere, who missed last week's game with a concussion.
That pick set up the game-winning TD as Fales threw a screen pass to Winston, who finished with eight catches for 151 yards.