Reserve quarterback Casey Paus led two second-half scoring drives and Washington's defense held the Spartans (2-3) in check one week after their 70-63 victory over Rice in the highest-scoring regulation game in NCAA history.
San Jose State dropped to 0-9 against the Huskies (1-4), who allowed only 111 yards rushing and 22 yards passing. Washington kept the Spartans out of the end zone after they had scored 10 TDs in last week's wacky win.
The Huskies simply wore down the Spartans, who were less fortunate than Western Athletic Conference mates Nevada and Fresno State - each of whom won in the previous two visits by WAC members to Seattle.
James had 90 yards rushing on a 99-yard third-quarter scoring drive, helping Washington pull away from a 7-3 halftime lead. The Huskies got a break when officials ruled James was down on an apparent fumble early in the march.
Paus was 5-of-9 for 55 yards after replacing redshirt freshman Carl Bonnell, who was 2-of-7 for 20 yards.
Washington is off to its worst start in 35 years, and a look around sparsely attended Husky Stadium showed as much. The attendance of 65,816 seemed a little high, judging from the many empty seats at the 72,500-seat stadium.
Those on hand helped Washington's Keith Gilbertson celebrate a victory in his 100th game as a college head coach.
Bonnell started his second game but was effective only on his opening series. Directing the option the whole way, he had 65 yards rushing on the 80-yard drive, capping it with a 1-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.
Bonnell struggled after San Jose State made some defensive adjustments, leading to interceptions by Brian Nunez and Matthew Castelo, and the Spartans twice took over inside Washington's 20 late in the first half.
All they got on the scoreboard was a 32-yard field goal by Jeff Carr. San Jose State took over at the 13, ran seven plays and netted 0 yards despite a defensive holding penalty that moved the ball as close as the 7.
After the second turnover, Carr's 36-yard field-goal attempt was wide right.
The Spartans weren't finished with their inability to take advantage of Washington's mistakes.
Four plays later - after a lengthy timeout to consider what play to call - Spartans quarterback Dale Rogers fell on the ball after he dropped the snap on fourth-and-goal at the 1, and the Huskies took over on downs.