SAN JOSE -- San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre finally is seeing his team display a closing mentality, something that's been sorely missing the past two years.
The Spartans needed two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half to take the lead over UC Davis. But once SJSU had the advantage, it didn't let up.
The defense forced two second-half turnovers, and the offense scored on its first five possessions of the second half (and seven straight drives total) to win going away. The 45-13 win Saturday was the Spartans' largest margin of victory since 2007.
"Last year we went through a ton of games where we got up and a team came back and we won. Or we got up and a team came back and they beat us," MacIntyre said. "I think when we got up here and got rolling, they didn't relax. They really put the pedal to the metal."
One of the games last year that saw an opponent come back was against Colorado State, whom the Spartans host Saturday. SJSU led the Rams 24-7 in the second quarter in Fort Collins, Colo., only to watch Colorado State tie the game in the fourth. The Spartans needed a 38-yard touchdown pass from Matt Faulkner to Jabari Carr in the final minute to secure a 38-31 victory.
SJSU blew double-digit leads in losses to Idaho and Utah State.
The success of the second half against Davis masked the early game struggles. A week after spotting Stanford a 14-0 first-quarter lead, the Spartans allowed a touchdown
The offense gained only 41 yards on its first four possessions and looked poised to trail at halftime until De'Leon Eskridge scored twice in a 28-second span.
MacIntyre, whose team regularly works on drills in practice to focus on starting fast, hopes to see those problems corrected Saturday.
"Maybe I'll have them all drink a Red Bull this week before they run out, but we've got to start out a little faster," he said.
The senior defensive end from The King's Academy-Sunnyvale, who was the preseason pick as WAC Defensive Player of the Year, tied a school record and career high with four sacks against UC Davis. He also tied a WAC and school record with six tackles for loss. His 23 career sacks make him the nation's active leader.
"I think he's definitely the best defensive player in the WAC," MacIntyre said. "Every Saturday I look up and I'm always excited about seeing 43 running on the field for us."
Johnson was also named the National Defensive Performer of the Week and the National Defensive Lineman of the Week by College Football Performance Awards. Those awards are based on a scientific algorithm that measures a player's performance to his team's overall effectiveness.
Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.
Colorado State (1-1) at San Jose State (1-1), 5 p.m.