SAN JOSE -- San Jose State's conference title hopes are likely gone and its bowl hopes on shakier ground after the Spartans blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead in a 34-30 loss to San Diego State on Saturday.
The loss, before 17,932 at Spartan Stadium, snaps SJSU's four-game winning streak and puts its chances of reaching the Mountain West Conference championship game all but out of reach. The Spartans (5-4, 4-2 MW) now trail first-place Fresno State (9-0, 6-0) by two games in the West Division.
Until this defeat, SJSU controlled its own destiny in the title hunt and it was beginning to look as if the Nov. 29 game against Fresno State in San Jose would decide the division crown. That's now unlikely to be the case.
"It's nothing we can control now," quarterback David Fales said of SJSU's conference title hopes. "We've got to focus on what we can control, and that's Nevada next week."
Even reaching a bowl game is no guarantee for SJSU. The Spartans need to win one of their final three games to be eligible, but may need two victories to secure a postseason berth.
SJSU should be favored this Saturday at Nevada (3-7, 2-5), but if it loses that game, trouble could really be looming when it finishes the season against the always-challenging Navy and No. 17 ranked Fresno State.
The Spartans looked to be on their way to a win over San Diego State (5-4, 4-1) when they held a 23-12 lead in the fourth quarter.
Austin Lopez had made three previous field goals, although two of them pinballed off the goal posts. He lined up for a 38-yard attempt to give SJSU a 14-point lead, but his low kick was blocked. San Diego State's Nat Behre returned it 56 yards, and a play later the Aztecs had a momentum-changing touchdown.
"You can't have a breakdown like that," Spartans coach Ron Caragher said. "Good teams don't play like that, don't do that. I thought we were a little better than that."
SJSU bounced back with a touchdown drive that Fales capped with a 17-yard pass to Tim Crawley that made it 30-20. But a quick scoring strike by the Aztecs put the result back in question.
The Spartans offense had a chance to salt away the victory but went three-and-out and gave away great field position after a 25-yard punt by Harrison Waid.
San Diego State leaned on its bread and butter -- running back Adam Muema -- and he went 12 yards for a go-ahead touchdown that gave the Aztecs their first lead at 34-30 with 3:32 left.
Fales threw two incompletions and had another pass for no yardage before he was intercepted on fourth down with 2:35 left in the game.
The loss was a gut-wrencher for SJSU, which seemed in control at several stages.
The Spartans had a 20-6 lead in the second quarter and watched the Aztecs continually give away points. San Diego State had a field goal and two PATs blocked, plus had another field goal attempt miss wide left to open the third quarter.
It appeared it would be the Aztecs special teams -- SDSU hasn't made a field goal since Sept. 29 -- that would be the difference in the game. Instead, the Spartans were doomed by a crucial mistake.
"I feel like we were in a good position and then it just slipped out of our hands," Spartans linebacker Keith Smith said. "We've just got to play four quarters."
That was also Benwikere's 14th career interception, which ties him for the school's career record along with Jones, Cocroft and Ken Thomas. Benwikere has five interceptions this season after picking off seven passes last year.
Jones is now 10 catches away from matching Noel Grigsby's career record of 237. Grigsby is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus.
Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.
San Jose State (5-4, 4-2 Mountain West) at Nevada (3-7, 2-5), 7:30 p.m. ESPNU
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