Only 4,093 fans showed up at Spartan Stadium to watch San Jose State play Rice on Saturday night. They saw the game of a lifetime and perhaps the greatest comeback in Spartans history.
In a record-breaking 70-63 victory, San Jose State rallied from a 27-point second-quarter deficit to stun the Owls. The Spartans scored the tying touchdown with 2:41 remaining and pulled ahead when Brian Nunez intercepted a pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown with 2:18 left.
``The miracle I feel tonight was a blessing,'' SJSU Coach Fitz Hill said. ``I'm a young coach, but it's probably the greatest comeback I've ever been associated with.''
The teams broke an NCAA Division I record for combined points in a non-overtime game. The previous record of 128 was set in 2001 when Middle Tennessee State defeated Idaho 70-58.
The win might help save San Jose State's season, one the Spartans hope ends with at least six wins and an appearance in a bowl game. That goal suddenly becomes more realistic as the Spartans head into a two-game trip to Washington and Hawaii brimming with confidence.
``Amazing,'' said junior receiver John Broussard, who caught two passes for 131 yards and returned five kicks for 183 yards. ``I can't believe we came back. It's the best game I've ever been involved in. We made plays and we all came together.''
The Spartans scored six touchdowns that went for 39 yards or more. Senior quarterback Dale Rogers threw for 359 yards and five touchdowns -- on only 10 completions. He also scored the tying touchdown on a 1-yard run with 2:41 remaining.
``They are a big-play team,'' Rice Coach Ken Hatfield said. ``I knew they were capable of making a lot of big plays. They never quit. They kept fighting back. That's a credit to good coaching and the players buying into what the coaches say.''
It was a career-defining performance by Rogers, who was not expected to play after hyperextending a knee in last weekend's loss to Southern Methodist. But he came off the bench with the Spartans trailing 34-7, and the offense began clicking.
``They got open and made plays,'' Rogers said about his receivers. ``That's wonderful. And the offensive line did an outstanding job.''
The Spartans, trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, scored the tying touchdown after recovering a Rice fumble at the Owls' 18-yard line. Facing third-and-17, Rice quarterback Joel Armstrong took off on a 10-yard gain, but defensive tackle Melvin Johnson jarred the ball loose, and safety Eric Wilson recovered.
Rogers scored three plays later, his touchdown set up by Lamar Ferguson's 15-yard run on a play that was intended to be a halfback pass.
``We're rejuvenated,'' said Ferguson, who rushed for 38 yards and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass that pulled SJSU within six points at halftime. ``The victory jump-started us to doing something special.''
There was a time when it seemed SJSU wouldn't quite close the gap. Almost every time the Spartans pulled within a touchdown -- which happened five times -- Rice answered with one of its own.
The Owls ran 100 plays for 634 yards. They gained 570 yards on the ground, including three rushers with at least 120 yards.
Rogers was the third quarterback of the day for San Jose State. Once he entered, he promptly led three scoring drives that narrowed the deficit to six points.
On his first play, Rogers handed off to junior Tyson Thompson, who burst through the line and scored on a 74-yard run. The second touchdown was set up by senior Jerrell Hardy's interception at the SJSU 33-yard line. The Spartans immediately capitalized when Rogers hit Broussard on a 67-yard touchdown pass, pulling them within 13 points.
Rogers continued to sizzle in the second half, throwing three touchdown passes to three different receivers. His 39-yard touchdown strike to Bryan Watje near the end of the third quarter narrowed the deficit to 49-42.
The scoring frenzy continued in the fourth quarter, but when the offensive smoke cleared, it was the SJSU defense making two stops to pull out the win.
``Today we finished. We found a way to make plays,'' Hill said. ``What a young team needs is to win in the fourth quarter, and that's what we did.''