SAN JOSE – Battle for the Valley Trophy was not much of a competition as San Jose State tasted defeat one last time on Thanksgiving Day, 40-9, against rival Fresno State.
The Spartans (5-7, 3-5 Mountain West) failed to qualify for a bowl match in the finals of the regular season after a second round in a row at CEFCU Stadium in front of 15,323 fans.
Last year’s Mountain West title and perfect regular season must seem like a mirage after San Jose State finished with a record identical to its pre-pandemic 2019 campaign.
The Spartans were trailing 23-9 at the break after setting up field goals by Matt Mercurio during three trips in the red zone and never establishing any momentum in the attack. San Jose State QB Nick Starkel – 19-of-42 for 260 yards – and his likely successor Nick Nash lost every fumble in the first half as the turnover plagued the team to the end.
Down 26-9 midway through the third quarter, the Spartans wasted a timeout on third-and-short in midfield. Running back Tyler Nevens, one of the players to attend the Senior Day pregame ceremony, was out of the game and SJSU coach Brent Brennan chose to bet instead of going for it on the fourth down.
On the ensuing drive, Fresno State (9-3, 6-2) ran a trick game as the final dagger – a jet-sweep pass to a backside with a flip back to quarterback Jake Haener for a 29-yard wide receiving screen to Jalen Kropper .
Haener, an East Bay product from Monte Vista High, threw in 343 yards and four touchdowns, including a 45-yard bomb to backward Jordan Mims in the second quarter when the Menlo-Atherton High candidate was left wide open during a bust in coverage.
Haener also joined running back Ronnie Rivers for a 13-yard TD in the fourth quarter. Rivers, who hails from Freedom High in the East Bay, ran 65 yards on 14 tows and now needs just 57 yards to surpass his father, Ron, to second place on the school’s all-time rushing list.
Fresno State could qualify for the conference championship if San Diego State No. 22 loses to Boise State on Friday.
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