Head coach Brent Brennan didn’t rule out the need for a defibrillator, quarterback Nick Nash heard voices in his head, and for the first time in what must’ve felt like an eternity the ball bounced in favor of San Jose State.
A sack by linebacker Kyle Harmon on the final play of the game sealed the Spartans dramatic \27-20 victory over UNLV on Thursday night in the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium.
San Jose State erased a two-touchdown deficit to break a two-game skid and climb back to .500 for the season, while the Rebels – who haven’t won since the regular-season finale in 2019 – suffered a 13th consecutive loss.
With four games left – next on the schedule is a home game against Wyoming on Oct. 23 – the Spartans (4-4, 2-2 Mountain West) not only improved their odds for consecutive trips to bowl games, but can also record back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 29 years. The Spartans have four regular season games remaining to reach the six wins needed for bowl consideration.
“Late there in the fourth quarter, the back judge came up to me and said, ‘This is a hell of a football game,’” said Brennan, who simply thought: “This feels like a hell of a heart attack to me.”
He added: “There were times when it didn’t look good. But they kept playing for each other, they kept fighting for each other. … This is a big-time team win that we needed desperately. So I’m just excited that we found a way to finish it.”
Nash, in his fourth start as Nick Starkel’s injury replacement, shined under the bright lights of the Raiders’ state-of-the-art new home.
The dual-threat QB scored the go-ahead touchdown with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard dash. It originally looked like a designed draw, but Nash saw the safeties in coverage, didn’t like the look, and took off right away.
“My coach was telling me, ‘You’ve got to have a quick reaction, you’ve got to get through your projections quickly and if it’s not there you can take off use your legs,’” Nash said. “I literally thought of his voice at that moment and I was like, ‘I need to take off right now.’
“So, I did it.”
Nash ran for 121 yards on 17 carries and threw for 213 yards on 17 of 28 passing with no interceptions.
“To me, what it looked like is he just attacked more running the ball,” Brennan said. “There wasn’t as much hesitation. It was more like, you know, he went through his progression and when it wasn’t there he went. And he hit with speed and aggression.”
It wasn’t a picture-perfect triumph, considering San Jose State lost a fumble on the opening kickoff. Nash also coughed it up in the second quarter. On top of that, the Spartans turned it over on downs twice in UNLV territory.
Both fumbles put UNLV (0-7, 0-3) inside the red zone and turned into touchdowns as the Rebels jumped out to a 17-3 lead with 5:51 left until halftime.
“They got on us early,” SJSU cornerback Nehemiah Shelton said. “They executed, they made plays and capitalized on our mistakes. And I can just say we’re a really resilient team. We went out there and we fought hard. We had each others’ back, we believed in each other.”
Momentum shifted with 16 seconds left in the first half, as San Jose State defensive end Cade Hall – last year’s Mountain West defensive player of the year – forced a fumble while UNLV was trying to run out the clock.
“To me, that was a huge turning point in the game,” Brennan said. “The amount of good stuff that Cade does for us in every aspect of our program, he’s literally just an unbelievable human being and also an amazing football player, so I’m glad he plays for us.”
On the next snap, tight end Derrick Deese Jr. caught a 32-yard pass to set up running back Tyler Nevens’ TD from a yard out with two ticks left.
Deese had five catches for 101 yards in the first half. (He finished with six for 106.)
Trailing 17-13 at halftime, the Spartans only allowed three more points the rest of the way, recovering three of their own fumbles in the second half – including on back-to-back plays during the winning drive.
Nevens tied the score at 20-all on the second play of the fourth quarter, a 10-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing drive, UNLV had a chance to reclaim the lead but a 40-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by safety Jay Lenard.
“Everyone is trying to make the big play,” Lenard said. “But what it comes to is all of us just playing hard throughout the whole game.”
The clutch hustle play belonged to wide receiver Jermaine Braddock, who caught two passes for 22 yards. But his biggest contribution came on a 54-yard jet sweep by Isaiah Holiness, who fumbled the ball into the red zone and Braddock pounced on the loose ball.
“That’s probably the play of the game,” Brennan said. “That was just so incredible. Just to see that kind of effort from us, that gives you a chance to win football games.”
Trailing for the first time in the fourth quarter, UNLV engineered a 19-play drive behind true freshman Cameron Friel.
With 14 seconds left and no timeouts, Friel dropped back on third down from SJSU’s 11-yard line. Harmon came off the edge unblocked after the Rebels flipped protection and sacked him from the blind side for an 8-yard loss.
“We always just focus on doing our job and our assignment,” Harmon said. “Once we get that done, we try to get a little extra, try to get the ball, make a big play if we can.”
Time ran out before UNLV could run a fourth-down play.
No defibrillator necessary, in the end.
“We’re going to smile on that plane, I promise you that,” Brennan said. “There might even be some low-key dancing on the plane.” h2 data-curated-ids="" data-relation-type="automatic-primary-section"">
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“It’s going to be fun,” said Nash, who’s ready for two days off after back-to-back short weeks with games on Friday and Thursday, respectively. “I’m sure it’s going to be jumping for the first 30 minutes of it, but then we’ll settle off and get tired and probably go to sleep. I’m sure all these guys are pretty banged up and ready for the long weekend.”
Snyder sets new standard
SJSU left tackle Jack Snyder broke the school record with his 48th career start, a mark previously held by safety Ryan Rasnick (1986-89).
“I think it kind of speaks to my durability as a player, because I’ve been pretty lucky and not really been hurt my whole career,” Snyder said. “I think being able to step in as a freshman really helped me improve really quickly. And I think having this record is pretty cool, I just gotta hope it stands for a while.”
Source : https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/10/22/san-jose-state-boosts-bowl-hopes-with-comeback-win-over-unlv1386