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SJSU pulls off the unthinkable, knocks off Arkansas 31-24

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San Jose State defeats a P5 opponent for the first time in 13 years.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Tulsa at San Jose State Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are some games that define programs, coaches, players and seasons. This was one of them for San Jose State.

The Spartans shocked the college football world on Saturday night with a 31-24 win over Arkansas.

It was a night of firsts for head coach Brent Brennan and SJSU. First road win under Brennan. First Power-5 win since 2006. First ever win over a SEC school.

And if Brennan’s tearful post-game tells you anything, it’s that this win was worth the wait for a program on the ropes.

The game

As you might expect, SJSU came out like it had nothing to lose. To say that the play calling was aggressive would be an understatement.

Right out the gate, Josh Love connected with Bailey Gaither for a 50-yard gain on the first play of the game. Could it have been a fluke? Of course. But it set the tone for what Spartan fans would see all day.

The Spartans capitalized with a quick seven-play 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 3-yard Love TD pass.

With SJSU’s poor defensive performance against Tulsa two weeks prior, fans would probably expect an SEC offense to torch the Spartans right? Wrong. A quick 3-and-out put the Razorbacks on notice that the Spartans came to play.

The first half followed that template. The Hogs matched the Spartans at 7 with a 62-yard bomb from Nick Starkel to Nick Woods late in the first quarter, but that would be Arkansas’ only fireworks.

The Spartan defense came to play, plain and simple.

And so did their offense.

Set up by an Ethan Aguayo interception, true freshman Nick Nash scampered for a 15-yard TD, making it 14-7.

The Spartans scored on three-straight possessions in the second quarter. That Nash rushing TD, a Matt Mercurio field goal, and a 26-yard Love TD pass.

It was 24-7 at the half. But the Spartans still weren’t going to win this game right? Arkansas has SEC players. They’re much bigger, faster and stronger than those at the Mountain West bottom-feeders.

Wrong again.

The Spartans came out of the locker room juiced and upset-minded. The defense picked off Nick Starkel on the Razorbacks first two possessions of the second half. Neither of them led to points, but it goes to show the dominance of the Spartan defense in this game.

In the fourth quarter, the Razorbacks made a push to get back in the game. Nick Starkel woke up and began to protect the ball with an efficient short-passing game. The veteran and his play-making receivers showed off their “SEC speed” with some big plays to get back into it.

The Razorbacks tied the game late with a couple of Nick Starkel TD passes. He’d finish with a modest statline of 28/50 passing and 356 yards and 3 TD’s. Also, five interceptions.

Even with the score being 24 all with just over three minutes late, it was simply the Spartans’ day. They weren’t going to lose this game.

Love led SJSU on a masterful drive to win it. In just 1:45 and five plays, the fifth-year senior showed his poise and leadership, going 3/3 with 54 yards on the drive.

DeJon Packer put the game on ice with a huge 19-yard TD run to silence the Hogs.

Arkansas’ rebuttal lasted just one play, a deep-ball from Starkel that was picked off by Bobby Brown II, his second of the game, and SJSU’s fifth.

The Spartans go back home 2-1 with the huge 31-24 upset victory.

Notes and impressions

Josh Love is the best Spartan QB in a long, long time

32/49, 402 yards, 2 TD’s and one interception. Against an SEC defense. That stat line says it all for Josh Love.

He was brilliant against Arkansas.

He knows when to throw the ball away. He can evade pressure. He has excellent pocket presence. He works through his progressions with ease and isn’t afraid to hit his check down.

If Spartan fans didn’t know what they had at the QB position before, they certainly do now.

Playing at SJSU, Love hasn’t had much of an opportunity to lead the team down the field in a pressure situation. But today he got the chance and he shined. SJSU has something special.

The offense surrounding Love was fantastic as well

It’s almost as if SJSU read all of my articles and corrected everything I complained about after the Tulsa game.

The offensive line showed up. Love’s jersey didn’t have a single grass stain on it.

The running game still left a lot to be desired, but it did enough when it counted. DeJon Packer’s clutch game-winning TD will be replayed on the jumbo-tron at CEFCU Stadium for decades.

Still, SJSU rushed for only 101 yards. t’s an improvement that still needs to be made.

Most of all, however, the receiving corps showed up. Namely in Tre Walker.

Walker had 12 receptions for 161 yards. He caught everything in the premises. But a huge chunk of those yards were after the catch. He carved up the Hogs like a thanksgiving turkey.

How about that defense?

Time to eat some crow.

SJSU’s defense was incredible against Arkansas. That is not a sentence I thought I’d be typing today, but it’s true.

Five interceptions speaks for itself. But it was more than that. Two weeks after allowing 250+ rushing yards against Tulsa, Arkansas was limited to 131 yards. Rakeem Boyd was completely unable to break off a huge run.

The effort was beyond impressive. What was the difference this time? It’s hard to say. The defensive line got pressure on the QB and on the running backs. The secondary was ball-hawking. The linebackers, Ethan Aguayo especially, were tackling machines.

It was an insane, out of character performance from a struggling defense. Time will tell if it continues, but those players and coaches can hang their hats on this special performance in Fayetteville.

And what about that head coach

Brent Brennan has been unmercifully ridiculed in the media. And it hasn’t exactly been for bad reason. 3-22 speaks for itself.

But tonight is all about him. Seemingly every single criticism on him were handled tonight.

He won a road game. He won a Power-5 game. He called an aggressive game. He made second-half adjustments.

This game was about Brent Brennan and his ability to overcome. His face after the game said it all. This win meant so much to him, and this fanbase that has suffered so much.

Soak it in coach, you deserve it.