SAN JOSE -- At the heart of San Jose State's hottest start in years is its best quarterback in decades.
Not since Jeff Garcia in 1992 have the Spartans possessed a quarterback as talented as David Fales, a junior college transfer who last week threw four touchdown passes in a come-from-behind victory at San Diego State -- his fourth impressive outing in a row.
"We thought he'd be good, but you never know until a guy takes a hit and you can see how he responds," SJSU coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He got laid out hard in the Stanford game on the eighth or ninth play and came back to huddle and completed his next pass. I thought, 'OK, we've got something.' "
The Spartans (3-1) have more than something.
Fales, who grew up in Salinas and took a circuitous path to San Jose State, is on pace to break the school single-season records for completion percentage, yards per game and touchdowns.
Fales is 21st nationally in efficiency rating (162.9) and ranks third among first-year players, behind Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh and Oregon's Marcus Mariota.
Fales -- not Stanford's Josh Nunes or Cal's Zach Maynard -- may be the best college quarterback in the Bay Area.
"He's just got 'It,' '' said former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who recruited Fales last winter before leaving SJSU to become the Oakland Raiders' quarterbacks coach. "He was a combination of exactly what we were looking for.''
The soft-spoken Fales was a two-time
He lasted one season.
"I realized that what they wanted to do wasn't a good fit for me," Fales said. "They wanted me to be more of a runner. I looked at everything, saw where it was going and didn't want to waste my time."
Monterey Peninsula College was his best option. Close to home, it offered immediate playing time in a pro-style offense and a head coach whom Fales had known for years: Mike Rasmussen, an honorable-mention All-Big Ten quarterback at Michigan State in the early 1970s.
In two seasons under Rasmussen's tutelage, Fales blossomed into a first-team All-Coast Conference passer who threw for 4,600 yards and 37 touchdowns.
"He always had the makings of a good quarterback,'' Rasmussen said. "All he needed was time and maturity."
Fales' career at MPC was interrupted by a dalliance with Wyoming, which recruited him as a non-scholarship player. He spent a few weeks in Laramie in the summer of 2011 and enrolled in one class, Rasmussen said.
But as with Nevada, something didn't feel right about Wyoming, and Fales returned to MPC for another season.
"He has an ability to be intuitive about what's the best fit,'' Rasmussen said.
At the time, the Spartans had their quarterback of the future: Michigan transfer Tate Forcier, who was enrolled in school in 2011 but not in uniform. As the fall semester came to a close, it became apparent that the well-traveled Forcier wouldn't stick around.
"You always have a film library, but we weren't hunting for a junior college quarterback because we had Tate,'' MacIntyre said.
"When we realized Tate wasn't going to be here, (recruiting coordinator) Terry Malley said, 'There's a good one at Monterey Peninsula.' ''
DeFilippo, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, drove down to investigate.
"I watched him throw and met with him for an hour,'' he recalled. "Then I called (MacIntyre) as I was leaving and said, 'This is the guy I want, and it's not even close.'
"The thing I liked most about him on the field was that he was accurate from all launch points: Bootleg, rollouts, five-step drops, seven-step drops.
"They did a great job with him at MPC. They ran a similar offense to what we had, a pro style. So I knew the learning curve wouldn't be as steep as with a guy coming from the spread offense.''
MacIntyre watched film, spent a few hours with Fales -- "He didn't make excuses about anything from Nevada,'' MacIntyre said -- and quickly became convinced, as well. But the Spartans were also recruiting Ryan Katz, who was hunting for a home after leaving Oregon State.
Katz was a known commodity (18 touchdowns passes in the Pac-12) but had only one year of eligibility remaining.
Fales, who was mulling a scholarship offer from Indiana State, had two years left.
"We offered both, and Fales committed first,'' MacIntyre said. "We felt they were both good.''
Fales enrolled in January and by the end of spring practice had zoomed to the top of the depth chart, overtaking two returnees (Blake Jurich and Dasmen Stewart) in the process. But it wasn't until late in training camp that MacIntyre confirmed the obvious and named Fales the starter.
One week later, in the first game of his major college career, Fales directed SJSU's near-upset of Stanford.
In three games since, he has 907 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception.
The Spartans have three victories.
"You can see it on the sideline: He just has a calmness about him,'' MacIntyre said. "The game's not too big for him.''
San Jose State (3-1) at Navy (1-2), 12:30 p.m. CBSSN