San Jose State capped one of the best seasons in school history with a 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Here’s a closer look at how the Spartans improved to 11-2:
It was over when: SJSU running back De'Leon Eskridge scored on a 1-yard run with 2:34 left in the game. The senior’s touchdown run made it a two-possession game, essentially cementing the win for the Spartans.
How the game was won: As Bowling Green tried to mount a game-winning drive, SJSU defensive end Travis Johnson, the 2012 WAC Defensive Player of the Year, used a terrific speed rush to force a fumble, which Keith Smith recovered. Eskridge scored four plays later to put the game away.
Turning point: After Bowling Green scored to take the 20-19 lead early in the fourth quarter, SJSU quarterback David Fales led his squad right down the field with an 11-play, 68-yard drive to regain the lead with a 27-yard field goal from Austin Lopez. The Spartans never trailed again.
Game ball goes to: Fales. SJSU’s junior quarterback was 33-of-43 for 395 yards with two touchdowns as the Spartans offense came up with key plays when it needed them. Three different Spartan receivers caught six passes or more as Fales spread the ball around to attack BGU’s defense. The Spartans, who finished with minus-17 rushing yards, put the game on Fales' shoulders. And he delivered.
Unsung hero: Noel Grigsby. The Spartans junior receiver was tough to cover throughout the game, finishing with nine receptions for 134 yards. He’ll join Fales to give SJSU a terrific quarterback-receiver duo to build its offense around in 2013.
Stat of the game: 3.4. While Fales will get plenty of praise for his performance, the Spartans defense was outstanding. They allowed just 3.4 yards per play to Bowling Green, who finished with 238 total yards on 71 plays.
What both teams learned: Maybe they should have spent more time working on special teams during their Military Bowl preparation. Each team blocked a punt, Bowling Green punter Brian Schmiedebusch had two punts of fewer than 20 yards and San Jose State punter Harrison Waid ended up in the hospital before the game was over after taking a hit on his first punt attempt. "Special" is not a word that should be used to describe either squad’s punt team.
What it means: San Jose State secures a Top 25 ranking and its first 11-win season since 1940 and heads into the offseason with plenty of momentum. The Spartans will join the Mountain West Conference in 2013 and play their first season under new head coach Ron Caragher, who replaces Mike MacIntyre after the former SJSU coach left for Colorado earlier this month.