Well, there was certainly nothing fun about that.
With the way Air Force handled rival Navy in its season opener, there should have been nothing to worry about against a San Jose State team that had been struggling on defense over the last few years. Heck, the Falcons were favored by more than a touchdown on the road. But it all proved to be for nothing as the Spartans battled their way to a shocking 17-6 upset on Saturday night.
It’s tough to say that either team showed up for the first half, as the four Falcon drives ended in a fumble, a pair of punts, and a turnover on downs. The Spartans fared no better, giving up an interception, turning it over on downs, and matching the Falcons with a pair of punts. After two full quarters of action, both teams headed back to the locker room tied 0-0 and Elisha Palm’s pick was the lone true highlight of the half.
Things got worse for Air Force in the second half, as it punted after a five play, 19-yard drive. Joseph Carlson pinned the Spartans at their own eight-yard line with some help from a holding penalty, but Nick Starkel led the San Jose State offense down the field in a nine-play, 92-yard touchdown drive capped off by a seven-yard pass to Derrick Deese Jr.
Defense continued to be the story of the night, as the teams traded yet another pair of punts before Air Force had a drive derailed on a Timothy Jackson fumble. Jackson, who had over 100 yards rushing against Navy, was limited to just 60 yards against the Spartans. He tied Brandon Lewis for the most yards on the team.
Unfortunately, the fumble put the Spartans in business with a very short field. Nick Starkel tossed three straight passes, and Derrick Deese Jr. found his way to the end zone for his second score of the game.
*exhales*— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) October 25, 2020
We got a ballgame ‼ pic.twitter.com/OOmDeQDjAF
Haaziq Daniels and the gang managed to respond with a six play, 65-yard touchdown drive of their own. Daniels hit Kyle Patterson for a 34-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 14-6 following a failed two-point try. Yet again, the Spartans found a way to answer, topping off the scoring with a 30-yard Matt Mercurio field goal.
Air Force had a chance to cut the lead to 8 at the end of what proved to be its final drive, but Teyve Schuettenpelz-Rohl was unable to connect on the 45-yard field goal. That was the final nail in the coffin, and the Spartans completed the upset for their second-ever victory over Air Force.
Haaziq Daniels led the Falcons through the air, completing 9-of-17 attempts for 92 yards and the touchdown to Patterson. Daniels also added 25 rushing yards on 13 attempts. Brandon Lewis and Timothy Jackson each amassed 60 rushing yards, though Lewis also proved to be a receiving threat, snagging six balls for 36 yards. Patterson was the only other pass catcher, hauling in three catches for 56 yards and a score.
On the defensive side, Elisha Palm dominated with eight solo tackles and the interception. Corvan Taylor and David Eure each added six tackles to the team total of 59.
As for the Spartans, Nick Starkel served as the main weapon, completing 22-of-29 pass attempts for 226 yards, two touchdowns to Deese, and one interception. Air Force held San Jose State to just 68 yards rushing, with Kairee Robinson rumbling for 31 of them. Bailey Gaither led the Spartans in receiving, catching 8 for 110 yards.
Kyle Harmon and Tre Webb dominated the defensive side of the ball for San Jose State, making 14 and 11 stops respectively. Cade Hall and Tre Jenkins each recovered a fumble, one by Cadin Remsberg and the other by Timothy Jackson.
The Falcons are right back in action on Halloween when they will square off against Boise State at home. Stay tuned for more as the game approaches.
San Jose State will continue their season on Halloween as well, taking on New Mexico.