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San Jose State continues landmark season, beats Boise State to win first Mountain West title

Sam Cooper
·2-min read

San Jose State’s dream season will include a conference championship.

SJSU has been one of the best stories of the 2020 season. The Spartans went a combined 8-29 in Brent Brennan’s first three years leading the program. In 2020, they are now 7-0 and the Mountain West champions after beating mighty Boise State, 34-20, on Saturday night.

It is the first Mountain West crown for San Jose State and the program’s first conference title since 1990, when it played in the Big West.

San Jose State was the home team in this game, but it wasn’t a true home game. The Spartans haven’t played one of those since Nov. 14. Local COVID-19 regulations have sent SJSU on the road for weeks, and this game was played in Las Vegas.

It didn’t matter where the game was played. San Jose State was flat-out better than Boise State, a team playing in its fourth consecutive Mountain West title game.

The Spartans were dominant in the first half on both sides of the ball. Nick Starkel, the well-traveled quarterback with stops at both Texas A&M and Arkansas, opened the scoring with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Tre Walker. Walker did most of the work, catching a pass just beyond the line of scrimmage before taking it the distance. But it was Starkel who alertly read the corner blitz and found the wide-open man.

That was SJSU’s only touchdown of the first half, but Matt Mercurio knocked in four field goals to give his team a 19-6 lead at halftime.

San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan speaks with his players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Boise State for the Mountain West championship, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan speaks with his players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Boise State for the Mountain West championship, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Boise State made things interesting in the second half. The Broncos twice cut the lead to just one possession — 19-13 on a punt return touchdown and 27-20 on a Hank Bachmeier touchdown run with 10:51 to play.

But the Spartans would not wilt under the pressure. After the Bachmeier TD run, San Jose State added another touchdown, a Starkel one-yard toss to Derrick Deese on third-and-goal, to put the game out of reach with 3:48 to play.

Starkel finished the game with 453 yards passing and three touchdowns while the Spartans’ defense limited the Boise State offense to a measly 224 yards. It was an emphatic performance for Brennan’s program, which now has the opportunity to complete an undefeated season in the Arizona Bowl against MAC champion Ball State on Dec. 31.

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