In spite of San Jose State losing its coach before the Military Bowl, quarterback David Fales led his team to victory. Fales made up for one miscue and an absent coach with a record setting afternoon for the Military Bowl's first ranked participant.
Passing with pinpoint accuracy, the junior began the game strong and finished strong in the cold and wind at RFK Stadium. Fales, who led the country in completion percentage during the regular season, went 33 of 43 for 395 yards and a two touchdowns Thursday in the No. 24 Spartans' 29-20 win over Bowling Green.
Fales completed passes of 15 yards or more to Noel Grigsby (nine catches, 184 yards), Ryan Otten and Tyler Ervin on the drive that set up Austin Lopez's 27-yard field goal with 4:43 left. De'Leon Eskridge's 1-yard run with 2:43 remaining gave them ample cushion for the win. Fales opened the scoring with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Nunn, and his only blemish occurred when he fumbled the ball on a blind-side sack by Charlie Walker on the Spartans' first possession of the third quarter.
For the first time since 1975, San Jose State (11-2) is in the national rankings and ended the season on a seven-game winning streak for its first eleven-win season since 1940, an extraordinary turnaround for a program that went 1-12 only two years ago in coach Mike MacIntyre's first season. But earlier this month MacIntyre was lured to Colorado by a larger payday, turning the team over to defensive coordinator Kent Baer for the bowl. Baer expressed interest in the position fulltime, but the school instead hired San Diego's Ron Caragher, who attended the game as an observer.
Under coach Dave Clawson, Bowling Green (8-5) had a similar turnaround, improving from 2-10 in 2010. Their defense allowed just 15.8 points per game in the regular season (ninth best among FBS schools) and did a pretty good job against a San Diego State squad that was averaging 35.3 points.
The Military Bowl had intended to have Army play against an ACC team, but Army isn't bowl-eligible and the ACC didn't have enough bowl-eligible schools to fulfill its bowl tie-ins. As a result, there wasn't very much enthusiasm for the game in the Washington area. The upper level of RFK Stadium was nearly empty during the second half of the MAC-WAC matchup, and attendance was announced at only 17,835.