Dec 31, 2020; Tucson, AZ, USA; San Jose State Spartans tight end Derrick Deese Jr. (87) is upended against the Ball State Cardinals in the first half of the Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ball State captures first bowl win in history vs. No. 22 San Jose State

No. 22 San Jose State was in a bind before Thursday’s Arizona Bowl started with eight coaches and players not available for undisclosed reasons, which contributed to the Spartans’ 34-13 loss to Ball State in Tucson.

Behind Drew Plitt’s 217 yards on 12-of-19 passing, the Cardinals (7-1) achieved their first bowl victory in program history and are now 1-8-1.

A few minutes before kickoff, San Jose State (7-1) announced offensive and defensive coordinators — Kevin McGiven and Derrick Odum, respectively — and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Cade Hall, a defensive end, were unavailable for the game.

Also not in Arizona Stadium were receiver Bailey Gaither, running back/kickoff returner Shamar Garrett, safety Tre Jenkins and offensive linemen Kyle Hoppe and Tyler Stevens.

Hall led San Jose State this season with 10 sacks and 12 tackles for loss and was named a first-team All-America this week by the Sporting News.

The Spartans also lost tight end Derrick Deese, who had a team-high five touchdown receptions entering the game, after he hurt his neck early in the first quarter while making a reception.

Ball State stunned San Jose State with a 27-0 lead in the first quarter, and it maintained that advantage at halftime.

Antonio Phillips started the scoring returning an interception 53 yards to the end zone with 12:47 left in the first quarter.

Nick Starkel, the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, threw the pick. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 268 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He sat out a possession in the second quarter because of a knee injury.

Will Jones and Tye Evans each scored on 3-yard runs in Ball State’s first two offensive possessions and then Plitt rushed in from a yard on a quarterback sneak to put the Cardinals ahead 27-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.

His score occurred six plays after Ball State’s Nic Jones blocked a punt, giving the Cardinals the ball at the San Jose State 35.

Plitt’s 48-yard touchdown pass to Yo’Heinz Tyler with 9:42 left in the third quarter increased the lead to 34-0.

Charlie Bostic followed with a 99-yard kickoff return to put San Jose State on the board. A 2-point conversion pass failed.

Starkel’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Jermai Braddock with 1 second left in the third quarter completed the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2020; San Jose, California, USA;  San Jose State Spartans quarterback Nick Starkel (17) passes the football during the first quarter against the UNLV Rebels at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 San Jose State finally bests Boise State to win MWC title

Nick Starkel threw three touchdown passes and set a conference title game record with 453 passing yards to lead No. 24 San Jose State to a 34-20 victory over Boise State on Saturday in the Mountain West championship game at Las Vegas.

Tre Walker caught seven passes for 137 yards and a touchdown for the Spartans (7-0), who prevailed in the program’s first-ever championship game appearance. Isaiah Hamilton and Derrick Deese Jr. also caught touchdown passes from Starkel, who completed 32 of 52 passes and surpassed the conference title-game record of 404 yards set by former Fresno State star Derek Carr in 2013.

Matt Mercurio kicked four goals as San Jose State opened a season with seven straight wins for the first time since the school’s 1939 squad went unbeaten in 13 contests. The victory also marks San Jose State’s first win over the Broncos (5-2) in 15 all-time meetings.

Boise State’s Avery Williams returned a punt 69 yards for a score to match the FBS career return touchdowns record of nine that was held by Washington’s Dante Pettis.

Hank Bachmeier rushed for a touchdown and completed 20 of 41 passes for 221 yards for the Broncos.

San Jose State’s domination included a 498-233 edge in total offense. The Spartans held the Broncos to 12 rushing yards and received two sacks from Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Cade Hall.

Boise State trailed 19-6 late in the third quarter when Williams fielded a punt near the right sideline, maneuvered to his left and then jetted up field. He cruised down the sideline with only punter Elijah Fischer to beat and he dove toward the end zone with the ball scraping the pylon for a touchdown that brought the Broncos within 19-13 with 2:48 remaining in the period.

San Jose State answered with a nine-play, 75-yard drive in which Starkel threw a 30-yard scoring pass to Hamilton and a two-point conversion toss to Sam Olson to make it 27-13 with 14:17 left in the game.

Bachmeier scored on a 2-yard run on fourth-and-goal to pull Boise State within 27-20 with 10:51 left. The Spartans boosted their lead back to 14 when Starkel threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Deese with 3:48 remaining en route to finishing off perhaps the biggest win in school history.

Mercurio kicked all four of his field goals in the second quarter to help the Spartans take a 19-6 lead.

San Jose State struck first when Walker caught a short pass from Starkel and eluded Boise State safety JL Skinner and raced down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown with 8:36 left in the opening stanza.

Jonah Dalmas booted a 51-yard field goal with 3:31 left in the quarter. Mercurio connected from 24, 36, 26 and 32 yards to give the Spartans a 19-3 advantage before Dalmas kicked a 50-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; A general view of Sam Boyd Stadium during the 25th Las Vegas Bowl between the San Diego State Aztecs and the Houston Cougars. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose State-Nevada moved to Las Vegas

Because of a local ban prohibiting sports of any kind in their county, San Jose State will move its football game against Nevada on Friday to Las Vegas.

San Jose State is located in Santa Clara County, which implemented the ban last week. The restrictions also forced the San Francisco 49ers to relocate practices and at least two home games to the Phoenix area.

The Spartans (5-0) were scheduled to play host to Hawaii on Saturday, but that game was moved to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. San Jose State stayed undefeated with a 35-24 victory.

Friday’s San Jose State-Nevada game will be played at Sam Boyd Stadium, the former home of the UNLV football program. New Mexico is also using the same facility for games after it was forced from home because of their own COVID-19 restrictions.

–Field Level Media