SAN JOSE, Calif. — David Fales came to pass. And his passes undid a punchless BYU offense in what host San Jose State labeled as the biggest game in recent school history Saturday night.
Fales was pinpoint accurate and BYU was left admiring and wishing in San Jose State's 20-14 victory in Spartan Stadium.
Fales completed 25-of-34 passes for 305 yards, three TDs and one interception, right in line with his 170-plus efficiency rating for the season.
Once-proud BYU, gurus of the pass, met a current, updated master in Spartan Stadium.
Amazing what a passer can do. BYU left the Bay Area 6-5, the Spartans climbed to 9-2.
Time and time again Saturday night, BYU could not convert big, key offensive plays as San Jose State's early fireworks proved enough before a crowd nearly half comprised of Cougar fans.
Riley Nelson drove BYU into scoring position four times late in the fourth quarter — enough action for a win. Two ended in turnovers.
The first venture ended up in a Nelson interception at the goal line. The second, two incomplete passes in the end zone and a drive dead at SJSU's 6-yard line on an illegal BYU shift in which two guys were in motion. The third? An overthrown Nelson pass to JD Falslev in the end zone, a pass behind Cody Hoffman at the 5 and a scrambling Nelson TD pass to David Foote from 20 yards out on fourth-and-10.
After that score, Hoffman recovered an onsides kick for the Cougars and converted a fourth-and10 play to set BYU up at SJSU's 20 with 1:20 remaining. But a blindside hit and sack by Keith Smith on Nelson caused a fumble and killed BYU's hopes.
Nelson finished 28-of-51 for 335 yards and a TD and a pick, a 112 pass efficiency rating.
Fales, SJSU's all-time single-season passing leader, looked unstoppable in the first 17 minutes, slicing BYU's No. 4-ranked defense apart with razor sharp darts. He led the Spartans to three quick touchdown passes in his first three possessions. Fales' first TD throw came on a 51-yard bomb to Noel Grigsby, who caught the ball, turned up field and raced untouched into the end zone.
Russell Tialavea blocked the PAT and BYU took a 7-6 lead on its first possession with a 79-yard drive capped by an option pitch run by freshman Jamaal Williams, who broke a pair of tackles on a 16-yard score down the sidelines.
San Jose State increased that lead to 20-7 when BYU went three-and-out twice. That left SJSU to produce a pair of scoring drives that ended with Fales touchdown passes of 8 and 18 yards to Chandler Jones and again to Grigsby.
BYU's limited passing attack and hybrid option run plays could not keep pace with the accurate and unimpeded arm of Fales, the nation's No 4 passer.
Using a spread offense that created angles against BYU's secondary and isolated receivers in space, Fales made it look easy. With his back to his own end zone to start the second quarter, Fales easily converted SJSU's sixth-straight third down on BYU's defense with a throw to Grigsby in front of BYU defenders.
Daniel Sorensen saved BYU's defense on that series with an interception when Fales tried to complete a bomb to blow the first half wide open.
BYUs defense then forced SJSU to punt after it amassed eight consecutive third-down conversions. The defense repeated that two more times in the first half but the Cougar offense failed to convert a midfield fourth-down run with Williams and ran out of downs on a second attempt to cut SJSU's 13-point first-half advantage and misfired on a last-gasp possession with 30 seconds before halftime.112 comments on this story
At intermission, BYU had run just 29 plays to SJSU's 40 and the Spartans had outgained BYU 295 to 140 in yards with the Cougars managing just 47 percent of the real estate annexed by Fales and Company.
While Utah State registered a whopping 13 sacks in a 49-27 win over SJSU here Oct. 13, the Cougars didn't come close to pressuring Fales and he got out the carving knife.
In the third-quarter, Russ Tialavea and Kyle Van Noy registered sacks on Fale on SJSU's first possession. It was the first time Fales had been sacked in five games. It was the fourth-consecutive stop by BYU's defense.
But SJSU had a 20-7 lead.
And the Cougars could manage just one more touchdown in the game.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.