Throughout this short Mountain West season, San Jose State’s fast start has captured the attention of this young blog. In a year and season of turbulence, college football has needed feel good stories like that of 4-0 San Jose State, off to their first 4-0 start since 1955. This week they have their toughest test yet, on the road vs Boise State and on a huge stage on FOX. Not only will the Spartans attempt to continue their unbeaten season, but they have to do so against the face of the Mountain West.
The Ghosts of Boise State Games Past
2004. 2-6 San Jose State attempts to play home spoiler against 8-0 and #13 Boise State, and they almost do. Adam Tafralis and Dale Rogers combine to throw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, Lance Martin rushes for 114 yards and two more touchdowns. Rufus Skillern and Tyson Thompson embarrassed the Bronco secondary with Thompson catching three passes for 105 yards, and Skillern catching 10 for 167, with each scoring a touchdown.
After a Lance Martin run forced overtime, both teams traded scores until the Spartans could not answer in 2OT as the Broncos survived and ended their season undefeated. However, thanks to Utah, Boise State did not bust the BCS and instead had to settle for the Liberty Bowl.
Two years later, it seemed to be deja vu. #14 Boise State with a 9-0 record once again stepped into Spartan Stadium against an unheralded, but improved San Jose State team, this time the Spartans were 6-2 with bowl aspirations. Adam Tafralis threw for three touchdowns, two to James Jones, as the Spartans jumped to a 20-12 4th quarter lead. Yet, the Broncos caught fire with just enough time, scoring 11 points in the last six minutes, with the winning score coming on a 37-yard Anthony Montgomery field goal with no time left.
Imagine that, if San Jose State doesn’t blow a 20-12 lead. We don’t get the excitement of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. No Hook-and-Ladder. No Statue of Liberty. Maybe Boise State isn’t as well known as they are today. Scary, right?
While these two are the most dramatic losses in the series, other ones sting as well, like in 2008 when 5-2 San Jose State was within a touchdown in the 4th quarter to #13 and 7-0 Boise State before losing 33-16, or last season, when the Spartans held a 34-31 4th quarter lead before losing 52-42.
In 14 meetings against Boise State, the Spartans are winless. Perhaps no game in this series is more important than this one. There is more at stake than before and the Spartans are more than just upstart underdogs.
A Changing of the Guard?
Despite the shortened season, the Mountain West has shown parity it has lacked in recent years. Traditional power, San Diego State, already has two losses, and defending West Division champ, Hawaii, is 2-3. Even Boise State looked vulnerable at times, whether it was in a blowout loss against BYU as they were short-handed, or this past Saturday against Hawaii, when they nearly blew a 33-9 4th quarter lead.
Who would have thought that Nevada and San Jose State would be on par with Boise State as Mountain West frontrunners? (Insert 2020 cliché here). While a win by the Spartans probably would not signal a new era in the Mountain West, who is to say it will not?
San Jose State has been on an upward trajectory since last year as they improved to 5-7 with wins over Army, Arkansas, and division power, Fresno State. A win over the flagship program of the conference definitely shows the Mountain West and country the Spartans are here to stay.
There are some games that can compete for the claim of being the biggest game in San Jose State history. Nonetheless, big games are few and far between for the Spartans.
Their last two power five wins came against awful teams, a 1-11 Stanford team in 2006 and a 2-10 Arkansas team last year, so those truly cannot be considered nationally relevant games. One might bring up their last two wins over ranked schools, in 2013 against a BCS-minded #16 Fresno State team in 2013 or against #9 TCU and Ladainian Tomlinson in 2000.
In 2013, the Spartans came into the Fresno State game 5-6, and in the midst of a disappointing season. In 2000, the Spartans actually had a chance to win the WAC, and after a win at home against the Horned Frogs, they controlled their own destiny. However, the Spartans blew their chance by losing to Fresno State and Tulsa to end the season.
Their best season in recent memory was the 2012 season, the WAC’s final one, in which San Jose State went 11-2, but an early season loss to Utah State took the Spartans out of the title race, and by the time they played a great Louisiana Tech team, both squads were behind the Aggies.
So there we have it, San Jose State likely has their biggest game since that upset of TCU in 2000 and likely the millennium. So much is at stake. The first win over the Mountain West’s most prominent program, the driver’s seat in the conference title race, and even a possible top 25 ranking. With all this up for grabs, this is one of the more underrated games on this weekend’s slate.