An unmitigated, second-half Nevada disaster led to a 30-20 San Jose State victory over the Wolf Pack Friday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.
Down 20-7 heading into halftime, San Jose State blanked Nevada in the final 30 minutes, scoring 23 unanswered — starting with a 98-yard touchdown from Shamar Garrett on the opening kickoff of the half.
The Spartans clinched its first Mountain West title game berth in program history. They will face Boise State next Saturday on Dec. 19. They finish 6-0 in the regular season, their first undefeated season since they went 13-0 in 1939.
Considering current Santa Clara guidelines, the Title game will likely be held in Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho, regardless who possesses the better record. Boise State is currently 4-1 on the year with a 4-0 conference record.
With the loss, Nevada has been eliminated from Mountain West Title contention. The Pack concluded its regular season at 6-2. Nevada and Hawai’i are the only two teams in the conference to have played all eight of its scheduled regular season games.
The Pack totaled 398 yards with 23 first downs. They had just 122 yards in the second half.
Carson Strong completed 33-of-48 passes for 260 yards with one touchdown with no turnovers.
Toa Taua had 96 rushing yards on 11 carries (8.7 ypc), adding five receptions for 32 yards. Lee tallied 38 yards on seven carries with a rushing score.
Romeo Doubs hauled in nine receptions for 75 yard, both team highs. Melquan Stovall had seven catches for 37 yards and true freshman Tory Horton recorded six catches for 62 yards.
Cole Turner was the recipient of Strong’s only touchdown catch on the night, his seventh of the year.
San Jose State totaled 506 total yards with 24 first downs on the evening.
Nick Starkel went 20-for-30 for 306 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Tyler Nevens had a dominant performance, tallying 12 carries for 184 yards — including a pair of 69-yard runs in the second half (one for a touchdown).
Bailey Gaither and Tre Walker tied for the team-high in receptions with seven, though Gaither nearly doubled Walker’s yardage total (156-to-80).
Despite a 57-yard completion to Gaither on the first play of the drive, SJSU was unable to come away with points after a 34-yard field goal miss by Matt Mercurio.
The big play served big in Nevada’s next drive with a 52-yard scamper from Toa — putting Nevada into plus territory. The drive was capped-off by a 42-yard field goal by placekicker Brandon Talton — giving the Pack the 3-0 lead.
Starkel gave the Spartans the 7-3 lead after a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jermai Braddock. Nevada followed suit, driving 65 yards on 12 plays that ended in a two-yard goal line fade to Turner, his seventh score of the year.
Talton’s second field goal extended the Pack advantage to 13-7 with 8:56 remaining in the second quarter.
Four plays into San Jose State’s ensuing drive, Nevada safety Tyson Williams intercepted his second pass of the season, placing the Pack inside SJSU’s 10-yard line. Lee scored on a direct snap, widening the to 20-7 (spoiler: its largest on the night).
Nevada couldn’t add onto its lead at the end of the half after Talton hooked the 25-yard attempt.
The train fell off the train tracks for the Pack in the second half.
Garrett returned the second-half kickoff for the touchdown. The Pack’s ensuing drive resulted in a very controversial fumble call that gave SJSU the ball buried on it’s own one-yard line.
Starkel connected with Derrick Deese Jr. — who was recently named a semifinalist for the John Mackay Award — for the five-yard touchdown. The 99-yard drive (on 12 plays) lasted six minutes, 12 seconds.
On the first play of SJSU’s ensuing drive, Nevens bulldozed Williams en route to a 69-yard touchdown, taking the 27-20 (missed extra point) lead. Its final score came on a 27-yard field from Mercurio with 9:35 remaining.
The Pack had two turnovers (both fumbles); allowed two 69-yard runs from Nevens (one was a touchdown); surrendered 311 Spartan yards and four second-half sacks; forced zero three-and-outs (the entire game); allowed a touchdown on the second half kickoff.
They just got flat out beat.
There was this notion, just a few short years ago, that San Jose State should be kicked out of the Mountain West (they went 7-30 from 2016-18, among other poor records in their other sports across the conference).
Now? They are unbeaten (after being projected to finish 10th among 12 teams) and are in the title game under these unprecedented circumstances for the first time ever. Brett Brennan deserves all the credit in the world, despite the dismal 2017-18 seasons (3-22) that he was thrusted into.
What a turnaround, especially for a program that has been looked down upon for the last several years. They have not received much credit in the past, but that shouldn’t be the case now.
As I highlighted above, the Spartans will compete in their first Mountain West title game in program history against the Boise State Broncos on Dec. 19.
For Nevada, it is a very bitter end to a successful 6-2 regular season. It will have to wait and see who they will play during bowl season.