WASHINGTON – The best season in San Jose State history? Theres a good case for it, yet its one nobody could make if the person with the awkward role of interim, on-the-way-out coach hadnt finished the job.
The Spartans are done for the year with an 11-2 record. Ten wins go to Mike MacIntyre, who rebuilt a program that was 1-12 just two years ago before leaving this month for a better payday at Colorado.
Win No. 11 goes to defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who was put in charge and got to speak in a victorious locker room after Thursdays 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl.
I didnt cry, but I wanted to, Baer said. I stood tall, took a couple of deep breaths. Its been a little emotional the last few days.
Baer wanted to stay at San Jose State, but he was passed over for the full-time job in favor of San Diegos Ron Caragher and plans to follow MacIntyre to the Buffalos. With all those distractions going on, the No. 24 Spartans could be forgiven for being a little rattled ahead of their first bowl game since 2006.
Instead, San Jose State capped the year with a seven-game winning streak for its first 11-win season since 1940.
The Falcons (8-5) had a similar turnaround, improving from 2-10 in 2010 under coach Dave Clawson. A defense that gave up 15.8 points per game in the regular season – ninth best among FBS schools – did a decent job against a San Jose State team that was averaging 35.3 points.
Two years ago, we were 2-10, Clawson said. We were awful. A year ago we made a nice step that we went from being awful to average. I felt this was a team that could make that next step, and we won three more games.
CINCINNATI 48, DUKE 34: In Charlotte, N.C., Brendon Kay threw for 332 yards and a Belk Bowl-record four touchdowns as the Bearcats (10-3) capitalized on the Blue Devils inept play in the closing minutes.
Duke (6-7) appeared to have the game won with the score 34-all and the Blue Devils in position for a winning field goal. But running back Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincinnati 5-yard line with 1:20 left and Bearcats defensive lineman John Williams recovered.
Kay then connected with tight end Travis Kelce on an 83-yard touchdown strike down the middle with 44 seconds left for the go-ahead score. Cincinnati sealed it on the next series when Maalik Bomar came crashing into Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, forcing a deflection that Nick Temple returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 24, WESTERN KENTUCKY 21: In Detroit, Ryan Radcliff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson with 5:11 remaining to give the Chippewas (7-6) the lead, and the Hilltoppers (7-6) were stopped on fourth down when a field goal would have tied the game in the final minute of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.