|San Jose State running back De'Leon Eskridge scored with 2:34 remaining to seal the 29-20 Military Bowl win. (US Presswire)|
SAN JOSE STATE WON. While the Spartans are one of the most impressive offensive teams in the country, it was a key forced fumble by WAC Defensive Player of the Year Travis Johnson that made the difference in a 29-20 win against Bowling Green in the Military Bowl.
New head coach Ron Caragher watched from the sideline as junior quarterback David Fales completed 33 of 43 passes for a Military Bowl-record 395 yards and two touchdowns. Fales' favorite target, Noel Grigsby, was his usual consistent self, pulling in nine catches for 134 yards.
HOW SAN JOSE STATE WON: Bowling Green's front seven established the tone early in the trenches, shutting down any hope of a successful rushing attack for San Jose State. The problem for Bowling Green was failing to capitalize on early scoring opportunities with touchdowns. The Falcons did not allow a San Jose State drive to last more than five plays through the entire first half, but the extra possessions created were also stuffed by the Spartans' defense.
But in the second half, Fales and San Jose State found their rhythm. A turnover on downs late in the third quarter was followed by a costly fumble with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter -- at the time, Bowling Green trailed just 22-20. Travis Johnson chased down Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz, recording the sack and forcing the turnover.
WHEN SAN JOSE STATE WON: Following the fumble, Bowling Green saw a glimmer of hope after Ina Liaina apparently fumbled after a reception on third down. The ball rolled into the end zone, and would have been ruled a touchback if the fumble withstood an official review. Instead, Liaina was ruled down at the 3-yard line. Two De'Leon Eskridge power runs later, San Jose State had a nine-point lead with less than three minutes remaining.
WHAT SAN JOSE STATE WON: Thursday's victory was a huge win for the San Jose State program. Not only because it is the first 11-win season in school history, but also because of the way the players came together after Mike MacIntyre's exit. The coaches and players both acknowledged a turbulent period after MacIntyre accepted the head coaching position at Colorado, but Fales credited the remaining staff and upperclassmen for refocusing the group heading into the bowl game. Fales, a junior college transfer, will be back in 2013 and ready to lead San Jose State into the Mountain West. Some coaches like to say that a bowl game is the first game of the next season, and if so the Spartans are off to a great start.
WHAT BOWLING GREEN LOST: After a low-scoring first half that was highlighted by perfect third-down defense, the Falcons put themselves in a great position to win the game. But after 55 minutes of mistake-free football, Bowling Green's first turnover of the game came at the most inopportune time. There was no guarantee that Bowling Green could march down for a go-ahead score, but overcoming 22-20 was about the only way the Falcons could get back in front. Bowling Green's defense was outstanding, but there needed to be just a little bit more offense to leave Washington, D.C., with a win.
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