There certainly have been more locally relevant matchups for the Military Bowl than Bowling Green of the Mid-American Conference and No. 24 San Jose State of the Mountain West. But who would have figured that when teams from their conferences met last year, Toledo and Air Force staged a rollicking 42-41 shootout, the Rockets winning with 52 seconds left, stopping a two-point conversion try by the Falcons?
On Dec. 27 when Bowling Green (8-4) faces San Jose State (10-2) at RFK Stadium, the teams will try to match the excitement of last year’s game. This will be the first time in the five-year history of the bowl game that it has hosted a ranked team.
This is the first bowl game since 2006 for San Jose State. The program produced three wins combined in 2009 and 2010, but third-year coach Mike MacIntyre has turned it around quickly. The Spartans closed this year with six straight wins, including 52-43 over Louisiana Tech, to notch its first 10-win season since 1987. Their losses came to teams that are currently ranked – 20-17 to No. 8 Stanford and 49-27 to No. 18 WAC champion Utah State. This will not be San Jose State’s first trip to the area. On Sept. 29, the Spartans won at Navy, 12-0. The team is led by junior QB David Fales (31 touchdown passes) and senior RB De’Leon Eskridge, who ranked third in the WAC in rushing (82.7 ypg).
The finest moment this season for Bowling Green was when it tied Florida in the second half of its opening game, which the Gators went on to win 27-14. The Falcons lost at Virginia Tech 37-0, but followed with wins in seven of its last eight games. In an offensive-minded conference, Bowling Green won with a defense that ranked first in the conference by a wide margin in points against (15.8 pg) and yardage allowed (289.7 pg). Senior DE Chris Jones led the MAC in tackles for a loss (19) and sacks (12.5).