In the final home game of his brilliant two-year career at San Jose State, David Fales turned in his most memorable performance of all on Friday as he led the Spartans to a 62-52 upset of BCS hopeful #16 Fresno State.
Not only did he lead the team to perhaps the greatest upset victory in school history, Fales outdueled the reigning MWC Offensive Player of the year, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, as the two dazzled the crowd and likely the many scouts in attendance with an offensive display usually reserved for a Playstation or Xbox.
Fales threw for 547 yards to Carr’s 519, and each had six touchdowns — incredibly, all 12 touchdown passes were thrown in the first half. It was the game’s lone interception, by SJSU’s star linebacker Keith Smith on a late second-half throw from Carr, that may have been the difference.
The first half consisted of basically zero defense from either side, as Fales and Carr traded touchdown strikes in often very quick fashion. It took San Jose State less than two and half minutes on the opening drive to get the game’s first score, a 31-yard touchdown catch by Kyle Nunn. The Bulldogs answered a mere 32 seconds later, and after Christian Tago blocked the extra point that would prove to be the difference in the first half, with the Spartans holding a 42-41 lead.
After a season in which head coach Ron Caragher went through some growing pains, the first year coach also saved his finest performance for the finale. Knowing the game would likely come down to who had the most possessions, Caragher acted on a suggestion from assistant coach Terry Malley to try an onside kick to start the second half. Kicker Harrison Waid recovered it himself, and San Jose State took control of the game.
From there, the Spartans tightened up on both offense and defense, choosing to eat up clock through the running game and holding Fresno State to field goals on all but their last score, a touchdown run with 2:03 to go. It wound up being the most well-coached game of the year, save for the complete disregard for defense in the first two quarters, and despite finishing with only a 6-6 record, San Jose State was the better team on Friday.
The Spartans offense was extremely explosive, with three different receivers (Nunn, Chandler Jones and Tyler Winston) going over 100 yards receiving. On the other side, Palo Alto native Davante Adams had a monster game for Fresno State, hauling in 13 balls for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
It was one of the greatest scenes I’ve witnessed at Spartan Stadium: an upset of the highest-ranked team San Jose State has beaten since defeating #9 TCU in 2000, and it cost their rival a potential birth in a BCS bowl in the last year of the BCS. However, it was also a very bittersweet ending considering what could have been.
I’ve lamented here practically all season how much better this team could have been performing. November was especially disappointing, with the Spartans entering the month in control of their own destiny and losing three straight before having to knock off the top team in the conference just to have a fleeting hope at a bowl game.
Had San Jose State finished the game against San Diego State, and not laid an egg up in Reno, it would be them playing Utah State in the inaugural MWC championship game. I’ve said it before and I’ll stick with it — I think the departure of Mike MacIntyre and most of his coaching staff probably cost this team another memorable season and possibly a conference championship.
That sort of continuity (this is the fourth year on campus for MacIntyre’s first recruiting class) would have probably been good for at least two more victories this year. It’s not to say Caragher isn’t the right guy going forward, in fact he proved to me he was on Friday. But changing defensive schemes, forcing Fales to learn a new offense for a second year in a row, and having a new staff spend nearly half the season figuring out where the players fit best within these schemes, put the team in a bind from the start.
Instead of possibly playing in a conference title game and having been bowl-eligible for several weeks already, the Spartans have to hope their final performance was enticing enough for a bowl committee to overlook their meager fan base and the low turnout at Spartan Stadium this year. The MWC has six bowl tie-ins and seven eligible teams, so that sixth victory guarantees nothing.
But hopefully that offensive shootout is seared into some minds, and the idea of Fales putting on his last great performance before chasing a career in the NFL is enough to get these Spartans another few weeks of practice together and one final chance for him to lead them to another bowl victory.