WASHINGTON -- The best season in the major college football history of San Jose State concluded with a game that showcased how this team reached levels not before seen.

Quarterback David Fales broke records, defensive end Travis Johnson delivered a key sack and Bené Benwikere made a game-changing play. Those were staples throughout the year, and they helped produce the No. 24 Spartans' 29-20 victory over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl on Thursday before 17,835 at RFK Stadium.

San Jose State's 11 victories are its most since 1940, and the total is unmatched in the school's 63 years of playing at college football's highest level. It comes just two years removed from a 1-12 campaign.

The San Jose State University Spartans celebrate San Jose State University Spartans’ Kyle Nunn (19) touchdown against the Bowling Green Falcons in
The San Jose State University Spartans celebrate San Jose State University Spartans' Kyle Nunn (19) touchdown against the Bowling Green Falcons in the first quarter in the the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. (Nhat V. Meyer/Staff) (Nhat V. Meyer)

"We've been through so much adversity the last couple of years," Johnson said. "Being able to get this last win, I call it the cherry on top. It was that finisher to make it the most memorable, incredible season we're going to have."

With interim coach Kent Baer leading the charge after Mike MacIntyre departed for Colorado, the Spartans (11-2) refused to miss a beat. They focused on an opportunity to make history and did so as MacIntyre watched with pride at home on television.

"To win 11 games and be considered the greatest team ever in San Jose State history is basically the message we talked about," Baer said. "That was our goal, and I couldn't be more proud of them."

Fales was the MVP after throwing for a Military Bowl-record 395 yards. He completed 33 of 43 passes to complete a season in which he set every major single-season school passing record.

"I'm just so excited for the coaching staff and the seniors and the people who put in all that hard work," Fales said.

The Spartans have often talked about the resiliency that allowed them to rise up from the bottom of the college football world. It also was a factor in overcoming obstacles against Bowling Green (8-5).

Harrison Waid, the only player on the roster who had attempted a collegiate punt entering this game, left with complications from pneumonia after punting on San Jose State's opening possession. Freshman place-kicker Austin Lopez filled in, and his first punt was blocked to set up a Falcons field goal.

After that, Lopez was solid. He also kicked two field goals, including a go-ahead 27-yarder to make it 22-20 with 4:43 to play.

The momentum turned toward the Spartans earlier when Benwikere delivered the type of play that's become commonplace for him.

San Jose State was trailing 13-10 in the third quarter and looking sluggish. Bowling Green had scored off a Spartans turnover, and SJSU went three-and-out on consecutive drives.

With the Falcons punting, Benwikere rushed and found a clear path toward Falcons punter Brian Schmiedebusch. Benwikere blocked the kick, and it went out of the end zone for a safety.

"That definitely gave us a momentum swing," Benwikere said. "That helped solidify this was going to be a game for us to win."

The offense seemed invigorated and went on a six-play scoring drive. Fales capped it with an 18-yard touchdown to Chandler Jones, who caught the ball in the flat and completely juked a defender on the sideline to reach the end zone.

The Falcons regained the lead at 20-19, but Fales drove the Spartans again. SJSU reached the 10-yard line to set up Lopez's field goal that made him 17 for 17 this season.

The defense secured the win when Johnson, the school's career leader in sacks, delivered the final big moment of his career. He sacked Bowling Green's Matt Schilz and forced a fumble that Keith Smith recovered with 4:22 to play.

San Jose State secured the knockout blow when De'Leon Eskridge scored on a 1-yard run with 2:34 left to put an end to the drama.

The only debate remaining is how do these Spartans compare with the 1937-40 teams that all won 11 or more games?

"We'll play 'em," Baer said.

Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.