WASHINGTON (AP) — Among the accomplishments this season for San Jose State: It's no longer a school anyone would want to schedule for homecoming.
The No. 24 Spartans have their first 11-win season since 1940, capping a comeback year with a 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl. In the national rankings for the first time since 1975, San Jose State (11-2) finished with a seven-game winning streak and put aside the distractions surrounding the recent departure of coach Mike MacIntyre.
"I don't think we've ever been respected like we should have been," defensive end Travis Johnson said. "They've looked at San Jose State on the schedule and been like, 'OK, you know that's a beatable game.' And that's something we all wanted to change. No one ever wants to be looked at as someone who's easy to beat."
The Spartans were 1-12 just two years ago and were rebuilt by MacIntyre, who left this month for a better payday at Colorado. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer coached the bowl game but was passed over for the full-time job in favor of San Diego's Ron Caragher. Baer plans to follow MacIntyre to the Buffalos.
"I didn't cry, but I wanted to," said Baer, asked about his postgame speech to the team. "I stood tall, took a couple of deep breaths. It's been a little emotional the last few days."
The only quibble is whether the 2012 Spartans should have bragging rights as the best team in school history ahead of the 1938 and 1940 teams, which both went 11-1.
"A couple of them have contested it, but that's all right," Baer said with a laugh. "We'll play 'em."
Bowling Green (8-5) had a similar turnaround, improving from 2-10 in 2010 under coach Dave Clawson to get back in the postseason. The Falcons, like the Spartans, shouldn't be mistaken for a soft spot on the schedule any time soon.
"A year ago we made a nice step that we went from being awful to average," Clawson said. "I felt this was a team that could make that next step, and we won three more games. ... We found a way to get from five to eight. Now we have to find a way to get from eight to 11."