HONOLULU -- After a 2,300-mile journey to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the San Jose State football team finally found offensive balance, an opportunistic big-play defense and its first-ever Mountain West Conference victory.

The Spartans racked up 534 total yards -- including a season-high 216 on the ground -- and forced four turnovers in turning back Hawaii 37-27 before a crowd of 23,929 at Aloha Stadium's Hawaiian Airlines Field.

SJSU (2-3, 1-1 MWC) snapped a three-game losing streak, while the Rainbow Warriors (0-5, 0-3) remained winless.

"This was huge," Spartans' first-year coach Ron Caragher said. "We had a bad taste in our mouth after losing to three good programs (Stanford, Minnesota and Utah State), but we knew we had to keep competing. Tonight, we executed, and that was the big difference. The players stepped up."

SJSU nearly a dug itself a deep hole early in the game, falling down 14-3 in the first quarter. But in what could turn out to be a defining moment of the season, the Spartans' roared back with 31 unanswered points to take control of the game.

"That was nice to see," Caragher said. "I think there were a couple momentum swings in the first and third quarters, but the guys held strong, which was nice. They could have started to get nervous, but they rallied, competed and stayed the course."

SJSU scored the game's first points on an Austin Lopez 41-yard field goal. The 3-0 lead was the Spartans' first since the opener against Sacramento State and was set up by Tim Crawley's 45-yard kick return to open the game.


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Hawaii went up 7-3 after Chris Gant scored on a 9-yard reverse on third-and-7 with 5:53 remaining in the first quarter, then made it 14-3 on Sean Schroeder's 7-yard touchdown pass to Vasquez Haynes with 3:18 left in the first quarter.

The Spartans closed it to 14-10 on David Fales' 61-yard TD pass to Chandler Jones, then took a 17-14 lead on Fales' 35-yard scoring pass to Billy Freeman with 13:36 remaining in the second quarter. It was the first career touchdown for the freshman Freeman, which would become a theme for SJSU.

The Spartans extended it to 20-14 three minutes later when Lopez bounced a career-long 51-yard field goal off the crossbar and in.

SJSU made it 27-14 when freshman Jarrod Lawson scampered 39-yard for his first career score with 1:39 left in the half.

Tyler Winston, a true freshman receiver expected to file a major void with Noel Grigsby and Jabari Carr both out, added to the lead in the third quarter with a 27-yard touchdown reception from Fales to make it 34-14. That was his first career touchdown and part of a breakthrough night that saw him catch six passes for 159 yards.

"The common theme tonight was freshmen," Caragher said. "Three combined to rush for over 200 yards and scored three of our touchdowns. I was just proud of how they were able to step up."

The game wasn't quite over yet. The Rainbow Warriors closed it to 34-21 on Schroeder's 28-yard scoring pass to Billy Ray Stutzmann with 2:22 left in the third, but SJSU stretched the lead to 37-21 on Lopez's 37-yard field goal with 12:21 remaining in the game.

Hawaii closed to 37-27 on Schroeder's 50-yard TD pass to Gant, but the two-point conversion pass was broken up by Dasheon Frierson with 7:51 showing.

The Rainbow Warriors got the ball back two minutes later, but the Spartans defense forced a three-and-out and San Jose State was able to run out the remaining time by converting two third-down situations.

Hawaii had scored 34 unanswered points against No. 23-ranked Fresno State in its previous game, before losing, 42-37.

"They are known for playing tough on their home field, so we knew we gotta keep fighting to the end," said Spartans freshman linebacker Christian Tago, who had his first career sack and interception.

Fales finished with 16 completions in 35 attempts for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Jones' touchdown reception gave him an SJSU career record of 19 receiving scores.

Crawley, a 5-foot-7, 169-pound redshirt freshman and former walk-on wide receiver, had career highs of 93 yards and 21 carries. Lawson, another redshirt freshman who remains a walk-on, had 12 carries for 89 yards. True freshman Thomas Tucker, also a converted wide receiver, had 12 carries for 48 yards in his collegiate debut.

The trio was filling in for injured starter Tyler Ervin, still out with a high ankle sprain. The starter the past three games, Jason Simpson, sat out most of practice the past week with an undisclosed injury. He participated in special teams but didn't play a down of offense.