SAN JOSE — David Fales threw for 543 yards and six touchdowns in an entertaining showdown with Derek Carr and San Jose ended No. 16 Fresno State’s run toward a possible BCS bowl with a 62-52 victory Friday.
Fales was every bit as good as the more heralded Carr, matching his six first-half touchdown passes in a near perfect performance that made the Spartans (6-6, 4-4 Mountain West) bowl eligible with their first win over a ranked opponent since 2000.
Carr threw for 519 yards and six touchdowns, but threw a fourth-quarter interception for the Bulldogs (10-1, 7-1). Davante Adams caught 13 passes for 264 yards and three scores.
The loss ended Fresno State’s chances to beat out Northern Illinois for a spot in a prestigious BCS game. The Huskies are the only undefeated team from a non-automatic qualifying conference.
The Bulldogs will still play in the Mountain West title game next week against either Utah State or Boise State but had their chances at a big bowl payoff done in by a porous defense.
Fales had his pick of targets with freshman Tyler Winston catching 10 passes for 164 yards and a score, Kyle Nunn having nine for 156 yards and two touchdowns and Chandler Jones finishing with eight for 146 yards and three TDs.
That entertaining performance has the Spartans hopeful of making a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1986-87. The Mountain West has six bowl slots but could have eight eligible teams if Colorado State and Wyoming win Saturday.
After a back-and-forth first half that ended with San Jose State on top 42-41, Spartans coached Ron Caragher made a bold move to open the second half with a surprise onside kick. Kicker Harrison Waid chased down the slow roller and recovered it to give San Jose State a prized extra possession that the Spartans turned into a 7-yard touchdown run by Thomas Tucker.
The teams then traded field goals before San Jose State forced a rare punt helped by a personal foul on Fresno State offensive lineman Cody Wichmann.
Fales drove the Spartans to their eighth touchdown on his 1-yard keeper that made it 59-44 as San Jose State did a good job of milking the clock in the second half.
Keith Smith helped seal the win with a leaping interception, ending Carr’s streak of 305 straight passes without throwing a pick. That set up a second field goal by Austin Lopez that made it 62-44 and led to chants of “Over-rated! Over-rated!” from the crowd.
The tone for the game was set immediately. Fales set the school record for career completions on the fourth play when he found Winston for a 33-yard gain. Two plays later, Nunn leaped over Curtis Riley to come down with a 31-yard score.
Carr took two plays to match that score, connecting on a 46-yard deep ball to Adams on the first play followed by a 27-yard touchdown to Josh Harper, who left the game with an injured left leg after an impressive one-handed grab in the end zone.
Christian Tago blocked the extra point attempt. That proved to be the difference at the end of a first half that featured 12 touchdowns and 1,006 yards of combined offense as the defenses had no answers for the future pro passers and their collection of talented receivers.
The rare defensive stops were more noteworthy than the scores. The teams traded punts midway through the first quarter and San Jose forced another in the second. The Spartans also lost two fumbles.
Fresno State appeared in position to take the lead into halftime when Carr threaded a 21-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Burse with 1:43 remaining. But Fales quickly drove the Spartans to the go-ahead score on his 19-yard throw to Jones with 18 seconds left to make it 42-41.
Even that lead wasn’t safe as Carr completed two passes to move the ball past midfield and Adams nearly came down with a Hail Mary