San Jose, Calif.-----All season long, San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre extolled the fitness of his Spartans when it came to second half play.
In the regular season finale, San Jose State was physically stronger and more keenly alert the final two quarters pulling away from a highly-potent Louisiana Tech for a 52-43 victory.
The win was the sixth in a row for the Spartans and gave San Jose State (10-2, 5-1 WAC) its first 10-win season since 1987.
Cornerback Bené Benwikere tied a San Jose State single-game record with three second-half interceptions and running back De'Leon Eskridge weaved and pounded his way for 217 yards and three touchdowns - two of them back-to-back giving the Spartans a 45-37 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Benwikere's thefts offset Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron's 468 passing yards and three touchdowns on 38-of-59 attempts. Cameron had not been intercepted the first 10 games of the season until the November 17 loss to Utah State. In his final two games, he was intercepted five times.
For those fans looking for offense, there was 1,151 yards from the two teams. San Jose State gained a season-high 610 yards and Louisiana Tech (9-3, 4-2 WAC) had 541. The Spartans racked up a season-high 243 yards on the ground.
While Eskridge accounted for nearly all of it, fullback Ina Liaina's 4-yard touchdown run for San Jose State's first touchdown of the second half and a 2-yard, fourth quarter, fourth-down run on the Spartans' final scoring drive were just as important.
David Fales added the San Jose State single-season record for number of pass completions to his ledger completing 25-of-37 passes for 367 yards and matched Cameron with three touchdown passes. The last scoring strike was a 26-yard completion to Jabari Carr who out-fought a Louisiana Tech defender for the ball and maintained possession as he fell into the front right corner of the end zone. Carr and Noel Grigsby each pulled down seven passes for the Spartans.
San Jose State turnovers played a big part in a first half of 589 yards of total offense that was separated by only a yard, 295 to 294, between the two teams. Louisiana Tech turned a Fales interception and a Forrest Hightower fumble after a 47-yard return into 14 points taking a 27-24 halftime lead.
San Jose State scored the first 10 points of the game on a season-long 45-yard field goal by Austin Lopez and a 42-yard touchdown pass play from Fales to seldom-used wide receiver Hansel Wilson who lined up as a tailback on the play.
The Bulldogs and the Spartans then traded a pair of touchdowns each. After Fales connected with tight end Ryan Otten to give San Jose State a 17-6 lead early in the second quarter, Louisiana Tech turned an apparent 33-yard field goal attempt into a 15-yard shovel pass for a touchdown from holder David Gru to wingback Malon Lee to trim San Jose State's lead to 17-13.
The Spartans' last score of the first-half came on a 1-yard run by Eskridge. Then, Louisiana Tech struck quickly twice in the final two minutes. Wide receiver Quinton Patton ran a streak route down the right has mark and quarterback Cameron found him for a 52-yard touchdown.
Patton had 10 receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown in each half. His last one - a 10-yard play pulled Louisiana Tech to 45-43, but the Bulldogs' two-point conversion try failed to tie the game.
The Bulldogs had two possessions to reach their season average of 52 points, but were thwarted by Benwikere picks, first in the end zone and then at the Louisiana Tech 39-yard line.
Now, San Jose State waits for a post-season bowl game call. The Spartans are one of just 18 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 10 or more wins heading into what looks like a December and a season to remember.