WASHINGTON The best season in San Jose State history? Theres a good case for it, yet its one nobody could make if the person with the awkward role of interim, on-the-way-out coach hadnt finished the job.
The Spartans are done for the year with an 11-2 record. Ten wins go to Mike MacIntyre, who rebuilt a program that was 1-12 just two years ago before leaving this month for a better payday at Colorado.
Win No. 11 goes to defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who was put in charge and got to speak in a victorious locker room after Thursdays 29-20 win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl.
I didnt cry, but I wanted to, Baer said. I stood tall, took a couple of deep breaths. Its been a little emotional the last few days.
Baer wanted to stay at San Jose State, but he was passed over for the full-time job in favor of San Diegos Ron Caragher and plans to follow MacIntyre to the Buffalos. With all those distractions going on, the No. 24 Spartans could be forgiven for being a little rattled ahead of their first bowl game since 2006.
Instead, San Jose State, in the national rankings for the first time since 1975, capped the year with a seven-game winning streak for its first 11-win season since 1940, recovering quickly from the shock of MacIntyres departure with the help of Baer.
San Jose State was the last representative of the Western Athletic Conference to play a football game. The conference is discontinuing football, although it will continue to exist for other sports.
Combined with Utah States win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the WAC went 2-0 in its final bowl season.
BELK BOWL: CINCINNATI 48, DUKE 34
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Brendon Kay wasnt sure if hed get another shot. When he did, he made the most of it.
Duke running back Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincinnati 5 with 1:20 left and Kay threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce with 44 seconds to go, lifting the Bearcats to an improbable 48-34 win over the Blue Devils on Thursday night.
Kay threw for 332 yards and his four scoring passes were a Belk Bowl record.
Duke appeared to have the game in hand and was driving for the go-ahead score and its first bowl victory since 1961 but the final 80 seconds proved disastrous. With the game tied at 34, Snead fumbled and Bearcats defensive lineman John Williams recovered.
Kay quickly took advantage of the change in momentum, connecting with Kelce down the middle for the go-ahead score. Kelce got behind the Duke defense on a seam route, caught the ball in stride and raced the final 60 yards to the end zone as Blue Devils fans looked on in stunned silence.
Cincinnati (10-3) sealed it on the next series when Maalik Bomar came crashing into Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, forcing a deflection that Nick Temple returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
HOLIDAY BOWL: BAYLOR 49, UCLA 26
SAN DIEGO Glasco Martin ran for three touchdowns, Nick Florence threw for two scores and ran for another, and Baylor overwhelmed UCLA.
Lache Seastrunk rushed 16 times for 138 yards and one score for Baylor, which outgained UCLA 494-362. The Bears came in leading the nation in total offense with 387.7 yards per game.
Florence completed 10 of 13 passes for 188 yards, giving him 4,309 for the season to break Robert Griffin III's school season record of 4,293 set in 2011.
Baylor's defense came up big, too. The Bears sacked Brett Hundley six times, including two by Chris McAllister, and shut down UCLA's career rushing leader Johnathan Franklin. Franklin, who averaged 130.8 yards this season, gained 12 yards on his first carry of the game but was a non-factor after that, finishing with just 34 yards on 14 carries.
Baylor (8-5) won its final four games and five of six. UCLA (9-5) lost its final three. Hundley was 26 of 50 for 329 yards and three touchdowns to set UCLA's season passing record with 3,740 yards. The old record was 3,470 by Cade McNown in 1998.
The Bruins were never in this one. Baylor raced to a 21-0 lead by early in the second quarter on Martin's 4-yard run and Florence's TD passes of 8 yards to Antwan Goodley and 55 yards to Tevin Reese.
UCLA punted four times and lost the ball on downs before getting a break when Baylor's Jordan Navjar fumbled after a reception when he was hit by Eric Kendricks, with Randal Goforth recovering at the Bears 21. Two plays later, Joseph Fauria caught a 22-yard pass from Hundley to pull the Bruins to 21-7.
Baylor quickly added two more touchdowns to put it out of reach at 35-7. Martin burst up the middle for his second touchdown run of the game, a 26-yarder, and, after UCLA punted yet again, Seastrunk broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run with 1:58 left before halftime.