SAN JOSE -- San Jose State was shut out when bowl invitations were delivered Sunday, left to debate whether it was burned by a flawed system or blown opportunities.

"Who knows how they pick them or why they pick them or what the motivation is?" coach Ron Caragher said. "The whole bowl system is really unique. It's unlike any other sport. You just envision the guys in suits and backroom deals."

The Spartans (6-6) were left out when the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl selected San Diego State (7-5) and the New Mexico Bowl followed with an invitation to Colorado State (7-5). UNLV (7-5), the other Mountain West bubble team, secured a spot at the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

San Jose State quarterback David Fales (10) throws a pass against Fresno State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Nov. 29, 2013, in San
San Jose State quarterback David Fales (10) throws a pass against Fresno State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Nov. 29, 2013, in San Jose. (Tony Avelar/AP file)

Caragher bemoaned a system that didn't reward SJSU's head-to-head road wins over CSU and UNLV or the strength of a schedule that included eight bowl teams and an upset of then-No. 16 Fresno State, the only win over a ranked opponent by a Mountain West team.

But the Spartans were ultimately undone by their three-game losing streak that preceded the upset of Fresno State.

"Whenever you're 6-6, you're going to be on the fence," athletic director Gene Bleymaier said. "To avoid this, you need to get a guaranteed slot from your conference or you win more games."

"We can't point the finger at anybody else but ourselves," said senior wide receiver Noel Grigsby, who would have made his return from injury if SJSU had played in a bowl. "It's just tough when you can look at two or three plays that could've went a different way and you could possibly be in a different situation."

Even with the three-game losing streak, senior quarterback David Fales thought San Jose State would be included in the bowl invites.

"We all knew it was a possibility, but we thought we were going to be OK," Fales said. "When you put it in the hands of somebody else, things like this can happen."

The San Diego State game likely will be the one that eats at players throughout the offseason. The Spartans had an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter before a blocked field goal turned the tide in the Aztecs' comeback win.

The other factor that doesn't help is the Spartans' tepid fan base. SJSU had only about 1,000 people travel to the 2006 New Mexico Bowl, and Colorado State sent roughly 6,500 two years later.

The Spartans ranked last in the Mountain West in attendance this year, but Bleymaier said the traveling fan base is more of a factor. The lack of fan support is a reputation SJSU struggles to shake. Bleymaier is confident that being involved in a conference with six bowl slots should render it moot most years, but seven eligible Mountain West teams for six spots this year meant the team needed to take care of business on the field.

So now the chapter is closed for several of the Spartans' all-time greats. Fales finishes as the school's record holder in most major career and single-season passing records, including yards and touchdowns.

Grigsby and fellow senior receiver Chandler Jones finish as the top two all-time in receptions and receiving yards. Linebacker Keith Smith is second in career tackles, and Bené Benwikere is part of a four-way tie for most interceptions.

"It's really frustrating for all our guys," Fales said. "We're not going to get a chance to play together again."

Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.