The San Jose State Spartans held the Fresno State Bulldogs to just 15 yards in the third quarter, but SJSU still trailed 14-13 going into the final 10 minutes of play.
As the rain poured down at Bulldog Stadium, the Spartan defense loaded the box and set up the SJSU offense for two third-quarter field goals. In the fourth quarter, the Spartans landed back-to-back sacks deep in Fresno State possession to set up the offense yet again.
SJSU took over at the Fresno State 37-yard line, just outside of range to take the lead with 10:04 to go. The Spartans rode the legs of Deontae Cooper and Kenny Potter on six straight runs for 29 yards before an incomplete pass halted the drive. Bryce Crawford and the SJSU field goal unit converted for a third straight time in the rain for what would be the game-winning score, a 23-yard field goal.
Fresno State took possession two more times before time expired, but the Bulldogs failed to get farther than their own 32-yard line. On fourth down and two from their own 17 and less than a minute to go, a fumbled shotgun snap led to Christian Tago tackling Fresno State quarterback Zach Kline for the game-sealing play.
The final series of events reflected the overall box score as Cooper and Potter accounted for the majority of the Spartans’ yards via the run game and the defense totalled 14 total tackles for loss, four of which were sacks. Cooper had a career day, carrying 26 times for 126 yards, while Potter added 70 rushing yards on 17 carries. Potter had just 111 yards through the air, completing 15 of 25 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
The Spartans opened their season finale with a 6:21 possession that netted zero points. It was followed promptly by a 53-yard Fresno State pass, but two key special teams plays gave the Spartans a first-quarter advantage.
Fresno State went onto an 89-yard drive thanks to the long pass, but the Spartans forced the Bulldogs into a fourth down just six yards from the goalline. The Bulldogs attempted a fake field goal that the Spartans sniffed out to keep Fresno State off the scoreboard.
Two drives later, SJSU struck on special teams again. On fourth down from the Bulldogs’ own 41 yard line, San Jose State's David Williams broke through the line to block the punt, which was recovered 11 yards shy of the end zone. It was the first blocked punt in over four years for San Jose State. Two plays later Kenny Potter connected with Tim Crawley for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
However, it was a near role reversal in the second quarter.
With a 7-0 lead, San Jose State was primed for good field position as Thai Cottrell awaited a Bulldog punt at midfield. The punt landed directly on a Spartan blocker, however, and was recovered by Fresno State.
Fresno State took advantage with a 13-play and 48-yard drive, capped off by a one-yard run by Dontel James, to tie the game at 7.
On the ensuing possession, SJSU faced fourth-and-two from the Fresno State 44-yard line and made the call to go for it. Quarterback Kenny Potter faced pressure after a play fake and his pass fell incomplete.
Once again, the Bulldogs took advantage. Just three plays later, quarterback Zach Kline kept a read option and ran for 32-yard touchdown to give Fresno State a 14-7 advantage.
San Jose State had one last effort to swing momentum back in their favor before halftime. Threatening from 18 yards out, Kenny Potter’s pass to the end zone was intercepted by Fresno State defensive back Stratton Brown.
By halftime the Fresno rain was in a full downpour, testing the will of two teams guaranteed to finish with losing records regardless of the outcome.
It was the Spartans who set the tone to start the half, taking 19 of the first 23 offensive snaps between the two teams. SJSU forced a three-and-out to start the half and capped a 12-play, 59-yard drive with a 28-yard field goal by Bryce Crawford.
One play later, the ball was back in the Spartans’ possession when SJSU defensive lineman Owen Roberts forced Fresno State running back Dontel James to fumble, recovered by fellow Spartan D-Lineman Bryson Bridges. The Spartans settled for three points again - a 22-yard field goal by Crawford.
Over the entire second half, San Jose State held the Bulldogs to only 32 yards of offense.
Ultimately the Spartans defeated the Bulldogs for the fourth time in their last five meetings and the Valley Trophy will spend another year in the San Jose State Simpkins Stadium Center.
San Jose State finishes the season 4-8 and SJSU Head Coach Ron Caragher finished with a sub .500 season for the third time in his four seasons. No indications have been made to date that a coaching change will be made, as Caragher has one more year on his current contract.