Photo credit: @SanJoseStateFB
By Ana Kieu
This year, San Jose State has been in the news for the right reasons.
Saturday marked the Spartans’ first Mountain West championship game, which was aired on FOX, and their opponent was the Boise State Broncos, a conference foe who has won three out of four championships–2014, 2017 and 2019–since joining the Mountain West in 2010. The Spartans held on to win 34-20 to remain undefeated at 7-0 and become the 2020 Mountain West football champions.
The Spartans put their game faces on and took deep breaths prior to the kickoff at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. SJSU received the opening kick, but Boise State forced a 3 and out, took over a punt and an offensive play led to a Broncos first down. However, the Broncos’ drive stalled at the Spartans’ 29-yard line, and SJSU took over. Nick Starkel threw a 55-yard pass to Tre Walker, who ran it in a touchdown. The extra point was good. SJSU took a 7-0 lead with 8:36 left in the first quarter.
Boise State finally got on the board late in the quarter. Jonah Dalmas’ 51-yard field goal attempt cut the Spartans’ lead to 7-3 with 3:31 left in the first.
With back-to-back sacks, Cade Hall became the first Spartan since 2012 to have 10+ sacks in a season. Hall achieved this feat in less than seven games. The Spartans led 7-3 at the end of the first.
The Spartans struck again early in the second quarter. Matt Mercurio kicked a 25-yard field goal to make it 10-3 Spartans just 14 seconds into the quarter.
Matt Mercurio added his second field goal of the quarter–a 36-yarder. The Spartans made it 13-3 with 6:40 left in the second.
Matt Mercurio added his third field goal of the quarter–a 26-yarder. As a result, Mercurio recorded a season-high three field goals, and achieved this feat in less than two quarters. The Spartans’ lead was extended to 16-3 with 2:31 left in the second.
Matt Mercurio went on to tie the NCAA record for field goals with four. Mercurio kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 19-3 lead with 50 seconds left in the second.
Jonah Dalmas wrapped up the first half with a 51-yard field goal. The Broncos cut the Spartans’ lead to 19-6 with one second left. SJSU took a 19-6 lead into halftime.
The Broncos received the ball to start the second half. Avery Williams, the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year, returned a 69-yard punt for a touchdown, and tied the NCAA record for career return touchdowns. The extra point was good, and Boise State cut SJSU’s lead to 19-13 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
Just like that, SJSU was back in the game. Nick Starkel threw a 30-yard pass to Isaiah Hamilton for a touchdown. Starkel then threw to Sam Olson for a two-point conversion. The Spartans took a 27-13 lead at the 14:17 mark of the fourth quarter.
Boise State made it a one touchdown game midway through the fourth. Hank Bachmeier ran for two years for a touchdown, and the extra point was good. The Spartans led 27-20 at the 10:51 mark of the fourth.
SJSU had no fear as Derrick Deese collected Nick Starkel’s pass and ran for a 1-yard touchdown. The extra point was good. The Spartans led 34-20 with 3:48 left in the fourth.
The Broncos finished the season with a 5-2 record.
Notes: SJSU defeated the Nevada Wolf Pack 30-20 in Sam Boyd Stadium last Friday and broke into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2012 on Sunday.
In his Monday press conference, Spartans head coach Brent Brennan said: “It was a mad scramble, but through everybody’s hard work, we got it done. Our offense got it done, our defense gave us a heart attack, but our defense came through and we had a great time, a really great time for us to come together.”
In his Tuesday press conference, Spartans defensive lineman Cade Hall, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, emphasized the importance of not only his accomplishments, but also his teammates’ hard work.
Hall said: “I’m playing for my teammates, especially for the guys who have been here for all the hard years of this program. I’m playing for them. They deserve it. They put in a lot of hours than I have. They’ve been here longer than I have. They deserve to be a part of a team that has a lot of success and takes this program where it wants to go.”
Up Next: The Spartans will play the Ball State Cardinals in the Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium in Tucson on New Year’s Eve.
Photo credit: @SanJoseStateFB