SAN JOSE, Calif. — This is how a BCS season dies.
Give up an opening-possession touchdown and botch the response by getting a PAT blocked.
Have a chance to pull ahead in a back-and-forth game with the ball to start the second half, but get caught off-guard by an onside kick.
See a record-setting quarterback throw his first interception after 305 passes, effectively snuffing the dream.
No. 16 Fresno State was stunned, 62-52, by San Jose State on Friday before an announced crowd of 23,574. The Bulldogs offense was unable to keep the first-half shootout going after halftime, and the defense got torched all day by David Fales, who threw for 547 yards and six touchdowns and ran for another.
“Guys are tore up, as well as they should be,” Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr said. “We wanted it bad. If you don’t want to do your very best to play in a BCS bowl game, you shouldn’t be playing college football.
“That’s what you want to do.
“But it’s so hard to do. It’s really hard to do. … It’s so hard to win every game. It really is.”
Was Fresno State (10-1, 7-1 Mountain West) more focused on Northern Illinois than San Jose State after the Huskies jumped the Bulldogs in the BCS standings? Did the Thanksgiving holiday serve as another distraction? Players and coaches shrugged off the notion that the Bulldogs weren’t as prepared and focused as they should’ve been entering the game.
Carr finished with 519 yards and six touchdowns on 38-of-50 passing. Davante Adams had 10 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Josh Harper, who was second on the team in receptions, was limited to one catch when he pulled a groin as he sprinted and reached for a spectacular, one-handed 27-yard touchdown catch.
What clearly led to Fresno State’s struggles, though, was a defense that failed to pressure Fales and couldn’t cover his receivers. San Jose State (6-6, 5-3), which snapped a three-game losing streak, totaled 736 yards — the most surrendered by Fresno State in coach Tim DeRuyter’s two seasons. The Spartans’ 62 points also marked the most scored against DeRuyter’s Bulldogs.
San Jose State also converted 11 of 16 third downs and was 2 for 2 on fourth downs.
“They’ve got a real potent offense, made plays and we didn’t,” Bulldogs safety Derron Smith said. “If you can’t stop them and get them off the field, they’re going to keep putting up points.”
It didn’t help that cornerback Jamal Ellis injured his knee while surrendering an uncontested touchdown early in the second quarter and never returned. With Sean Alston (out for season) and L.J. Jones (hurt at San Diego State) already missing, Fresno State turned to its fifth cornerback in Jonathan Norton (the hero of the Boise State game) for much of Friday.
Fresno State’s defensive front didn’t help its backs any — zero sacks for the first time this season and no quarterback hurries, either.
“We had trouble matching up with them and we had trouble pressuring them,” DeRuyter said. “When you have that combination, it makes for a long day and they made us pay.”
The Bulldogs kept pace through the first half when the teams exchanged leads nine times while combining for 1,006 total yards. Carr and Fales each had six touchdown passes while combining for 805 passing yards.
The lone difference in San Jose State’s 42-41 halftime lead was the blocked extra point on the Bulldogs’ first touchdown, which contributed to Fresno State trailing at the half for the first time this season.
But from the opening kickoff of the second half, the Bulldogs seemed in trouble.
The Spartans recovered an onside kick and drove for a touchdown. Fresno State could answer only with a 42-yard field goal from Colin McGuire.
It got worse.
Fresno State went three-and-out on its next possession, and San Jose State drove to a field goal.
Then came the unimaginable. Carr underthrew Adams in the middle of the field and was intercepted — ending Carr’s Mountain West record at 305 passes without a pick.
“They’re an explosive offense,” Fales said, “but our defense stepped up when we needed to.”
San Jose State kept scoring and never punted in the second half.
The only times the Bulldogs stopped the Spartans all game was during the first half when they forced one punt and caused two fumbles. The lone drive that San Jose State didn’t score during the second half occurred on its final possession when the Spartans simply ran out the clock.
“The better team today won,” DeRuyter said. “They outcoached us, outplayed us. Give them credit. That’s why I have a tremendous amount of respect for teams that go undefeated.
“The longer you go, more and more teams play up to you. They obviously played very, very well.”