MOSCOW, Idaho -- San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre looked emotionally drained after his Spartans beat Idaho 42-13 at the Kibbie Dome on Saturday.
The victory made SJSU bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, and the reality of that set in as the third-year coach reflected on the win.
"The lowest point in my career was in this building," MacIntyre said, referring to a 26-23 overtime loss in 2010 to end his first season as coach at 1-12.
"It's amazing how far we've come. We're not done yet. But this is something we are going to savor for just a second. I'm just so proud of everybody. It's an emotional day."
The Spartans haven't played in a bowl game since 2006, and they know eligibility doesn't guarantee an invitation. The 2008 team also achieved eligibility with a road win over the Vandals but lost their final three games and weren't selected to a bowl.
To make a bowl bid a reality this season, it's likely SJSU will need to avoid a similar collapse. The Spartans next play at New Mexico State and then host BYU and No. 22 Louisiana Tech to close the regular season.
"We all understand the importance of the next couple of games," senior defensive end Travis Johnson said.
David Fales continued his fabulous first season with SJSU by throwing for 328 yards and matching a career high with four touchdowns. He's 410 yards and four TDs away from matching school single-season records.
Fales didn't experience the lows
"It's exciting," Fales said. "I'm just happy for Coach Mac and all the seniors and veterans."
Johnson had 11/2 sacks to give him 30 for his career. That ties the SJSU and WAC records.
"It just goes out to the whole defense," Johnson said. "We work with each other, and the whole D-line puts in time and effort. Getting this record is something for our whole defense."
The final score didn't reflect the overall performance. Midway through the third quarter, Idaho pulled to within 14-13 after SJSU's third special-teams turnover set up a field goal.
The Spartans closed the game strong. SJSU scored the final 28 points, and Bene Benwikere delivered the final blow with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"When we got them on the ropes at the end of the third, we put the pedal down, and I was really proud to see that," MacIntyre said.
Idaho, playing in its first game with Jason Gesser as interim coach in place of the fired Robb Akey, led 7-0 after 54 seconds.
SJSU's David Freeman fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Vandals recovered at the 14. Two plays later, Logan Bushnell threw a 12-yard touchdown to Najee Lovett.
That early blow seemed to stifle the Spartans offense. Fales threw an interception to end their first drive, running back De'Leon Eskridge was stuffed on fourth-and-1 to end the next, and Ronnie Yell fumbled a punt for another turnover.
SJSU picked it up in the second quarter. Eskridge capped a drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and Jabari Carr caught a 15-yard touchdown pass. Carr had to go over a defender to make the catch. It was initially ruled incomplete but reversed after a video review.
The start of the third quarter was shaky again as Idaho marched down on its first drive for a 41-yard field goal by Trey Farquhar. After gaining only 47 first-half yards, the Vandals moved 51 on that possession.
Yell fumbled another punt to set up a 33-yard field goal by Farquhar to make it 14-13 with 7:31 left in the third quarter.
That's when SJSU got it going. The Spartans scored on their next three drives, with Fales connecting twice on touchdown passes to Noel Grigsby and once to Chandler Jones. Grigsby's second touchdown was followed by Benwikere's pick, which led to the first defensive touchdown by SJSU this season.
Staff writer Darren Sabedra contributed to this report. Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin