San Jose State pulls one out late
A rare night to cherish for San Jose State began with a bus ride through fan-clogged streets and ended with those same faithful dancing on the field at Spartan Stadium.
Chandler Jones caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Matt Faulkner with 36 seconds remaining, and San Jose State rallied to beat Hawaii 28-27 on Friday night in a wild game with six turnovers by each team.
Fans stormed the field in celebration, and players and coaches dance along with them. A year after winning only once, the Spartans (3-4, 2-1) have reason to dance: They've won three of their last four games and are no longer pushovers in the Western Athletic Conference.
''It was just a magical night for San Jose State,'' second-year coach Mike MacIntyre said.
The team bus also avoided a crowded highway and took a different path to the game through the streets of San Jose. The crowds of people walking down the roads delayed the bus and had players giddy even before they arrived, ready for a packed stadium that is usually filled with empty seats.
While it wasn't always the prettiest performance, the Spartans were never dull.
Jones also scored a touchdown rushing and returned a fumble for a score on kickoff coverage to help redeem a horrendous second half for the Spartans that included six turnovers. The redshirt sophomore had only one touchdown in his career coming into the game, which came last year at Wisconsin.
''It was kind of like the cycle,'' Jones said.
Joey Iosefa's 32-yard touchdown run with 11:46 remaining put Hawaii (3-3, 1-1) ahead 27-20. Travis Johnson blocked the extra point and Duke Ihenacho overcame a cramp and returned it for a 2-point conversion before Jones' TD catch capped a wacky night in Silicon Valley.
Matt Faulkner threw for a career-high 366 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in front of a rare national television audience and 24,643, the largest crowd of the season at cozy Spartan Stadium. The student section even piled onto the field when time expired, and several Spartans fans joined in the celebration for a program that hasn't had many big wins in recent memory.
''It's surreal for our team,'' Faulkner said. ''It's what we've desired. It's where we want to get. We got a taste of it. We want more.''
The Spartans dropped their first three games of the season in tough matchups at Stanford and UCLA and then at home against Nevada. After wins against New Mexico State and Colorado State gave the program consecutive victories for the first time three years, San Jose State lost to BYU before tripling its win total from last season by beating the Warriors.
While it wasn't the prettiest of wins, the Spartans won't complain.
Besides, each team had a horrific half. The turnover ratio narrowed quickly in the third quarter, when San Jose State had four of the period's five giveaways. Two interceptions thrown by Faulkner led to Hawaii touchdowns.
Jeremiah Ostrowski caught a 19-yard pass and Iosefa ran 2 yards for a score to give the Warriors a 21-20 lead in the third quarter, stunning the home crowd that included Krazy George Henderson, credited for starting ''The Wave'' cheer 30 years ago this week.
Iosefa scampered for a 32-yard score that was set to give the Warriors a one-touchdown lead. But Johnson blocked the extra-point kick and Ihenacho scooped up the ball and ran for the first 2-point return in San Jose State history, cutting Hawaii's lead to 27-22 early in the fourth.
Faulkner led San Jose State on a six-play, 87-yard drive capped by Jones' TD catch for the go-ahead score. One last lob to the end zone by Hawaii's Bryant Moniz sailed incomplete just short of the goal line as time expired.
''This was an exciting game for the fans but not real exciting for the coaches,'' Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said.
Hawaii started strong with an 80-yard drive capped by Royce Pollard's 16-yard touchdown catch from Moniz for its first score and a 7-0 lead. And then everything - on both sides - imploded.
Several times, actually. After 152 attempts without throwing an interception, Moniz had two passes in a row picked off.
Peyton Thomas intercepted a pass by Moniz and sprinted 70 yards for a touchdown only to have the score wiped out by a personal foul penalty by Bene Benwikere during the return. James Orth picked off another pass to setup Alvernik's second field goal, giving the Spartans a 13-7 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball was jarred loose from Scott Harding and corralled by Jones in stride for his second touchdown to put San Jose State ahead 20-7.
Hawaii drove quickly down field looking for a score before the break until another turnover ended the drive. Pollard was stripped fighting for more yards at the San Jose State 11, the fifth turnover of the half for the Warriors.
Not that San Jose State minded.
''I think this is a huge win for this program,'' MacIntyre said. ''We're going into November and now October with a real chance to win the conference. Our guys can taste it.''