Photo credit: sjsuspartans.com
By Ana Kieu
San Jose State senior quarterback Josh Love, who had one of the best regular seasons by a FBS quarterback in 2019, was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, the conference’s premier passer on the league’s 30-player first-team, and was one of seven Spartans honored with All-Mountain West honors.
Wide receivers Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither, offensive linemen Troy Kowalski and Jack Snyder, linebacker Ethan Aguayo and placekicker Matt Mercurio joined Love as All-Mountain West honorees.
“I am so excited about the All-Mountain West honors our players received. These players worked so hard here at San Jose State and for the conference to recognize them is extremely exciting for them individually and also for us as a program. ‘Spartan Up!” said SJSU football head coach Brent Brennan in response to the conference awards announcement.
Brennan, the 11 other Mountain West head coaches, and a panel of media members cast votes for the conference awards.
Love completed 60.9% of his passes with only eight interceptions for 3,923 yards and 22 touchdowns as the Spartans recorded a 5-7 win-loss record, four more wins than in 2018. All of his season totals were personal bests for the one-time walk-on from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High.
Love became only the third quarterback in conference history to throw for 400 or more yards five games in a season. His six career 400-yard passing games ranks second on the all-time Mountain West list behind Oakland Raiders and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who had 11 in two seasons. His 3,923 passing yards are #6 on the Mountain West’s single-season list and ranks third nationally this season in games played through November 30. He’s also sixth nationally in total offense at 319.6 yards per game.
The numbers complement a year in which the co-captain led the Spartans to game-winning touchdown drives with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of 75 yards at Arkansas for SJSU’s first win in school history against a SEC opponent and 83 yards vs. Fresno State to conclude the season.
Love’s the first Spartan to receive a Mountain West “superlative” postseason award since 2013 when wide receiver Tyler Winston was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year; the first SJSU player to be named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year; the first Spartan quarterback since Mike Perez in 1987 to be named a conference Offensive Player of the Year; and the first San Jose State signal caller since Ralph Martini in 1990 to be named a first-team all-conference quarterback.
Since 1970 when SJSU aligned itself in a football-playing conference, Steve DeBerg (1976–Pacific Coast Athletic Association), Ed Luther (1979–PCAA), Perez (1986–PCAA and 1987–Big West) and Love (2019–Mountain West) are the four Spartan quarterbacks to garner conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Walker, a junior from Los Angeles’ Narbonne High, joined Love as a first-team All-Mountain West honoree. He led the Mountain West in receptions per game and receiving yards per game in the regular season with 79 catches for 1,161 yards and two touchdowns. He currently ranks fifth nationally in receptions per game (7.9) and third in the FBS in receiving yards per game (116.1). Three times, Walker had 10 or more catches in a game and in six games, he had at least 100 yards in pass receptions, many of them from passes by Love.
Aguayo, a senior from Mission Viejo, Calif., and a graduate of JSerra High, was San Jose State’s one second-team All-Mountain West honoree. He led the conference and was fourth nationally in tackles per game at 11.3 in the regular season. For the second consecutive season, he was credited with more than 100 tackles and his 345 career stops is among the top-10 totals by an active FBS player.
Gaither, a senior from Paso Robles, Calif.; Mercurio, a freshman from Salinas, Calif.; and Kowalski, a senior from Glendale, Ariz., and Snyder, a junior from Kentfield, Calif., received honorable mention All-Mountain West honors.
Gaither had personal single season bests of 52 receptions for 812 yards and six touchdowns – one each in six consecutive games to set a school record. Mercurio led the Spartans in scoring with 97 points, was tied for 10th nationally in field made per game converting 20 out of 24 attempts, and was tied for 24th in the FBS for field goal percentage at the end of the regular season (83.3%).
Kowalski and Snyder comprised the left side of the offensive line that was one of the top pass protection quintets in college football. In the regular season, SJSU was tied for eighth nationally yielding just 14 sacks in 12 games, but were third nationally behind Georgia and Clemson for pass attempts (35.6 to 1) per sacks of the quarterback.