David Fales stared into the teeth of the nation's seventh-ranked defense and felt nothing but a Zen-like calm.
"I'm sitting back there going through my fourth progression on a couple of plays," the San Jose State junior quarterback said. "That's amazing."
The nation's most accurate passer had little trouble solving Bowling Green's aggressive unit during the Military Bowl on Thursday, as Fales set a bowl record with 395 yards passing to lift the No. 24 Spartans to a 29-20 triumph while earning game MVP honors.
"We can throw it against anybody," San Jose State interim coach Kent Baer said with a smile. "He's unbelievable. He's the best I've ever been around."
Fales took what the Falcons gave him, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers en route to finishing 33 of 43 with two touchdowns, allowing San Jose State to overcome an anemic showing from its running game, which finished with minus-15 yards.
"That's the best passing offense we've faced all year," Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. "Even when we held him down, he was still completing balls."
A transfer from Monterey Peninsula Junior College, Fales was recommended to San Jose State by that team's coach, Mike Rasmussen, a friend of Baer's.
"You never know, bringing a guy out of junior college," Baer said. "We went and looked at him and said, 'That's the guy we want.' It's a great recruiting decision on our part, for sure."
Fales leadership skills and arm strength quickly earned him the nod over two other quarterback candidates and the respect of the team's defensive leaders.
"Just by watching David take control in practice, we realized that's what we needed in a quarterback," Spartans defensive end Travis Johnson said. "Then he has a great arm. He was like that puzzle piece that makes everything come together."
San Jose State repeatedly gashed Bowling Green with short passes and wheel routes, letting its quick receivers make moves after the catch. Noel Grigsby tallied nine catches for 134 yards and Chandler Jones racked up six catches for 73 yards, including a nifty 18-yard scoring connection in which he made two Falcons miss.
"Having those guys out there, I can go to anybody and know they are going to win," Fales said. "I don't have to second guess in my progressions. There's no doubt – I'll throw it up to any one of them. It's crazy having all those guys out there who can make those crazy plays."
With the Spartans trailing by one point and the running game a non-factor, Fales led San Jose State to victory on an impressive 13-play, 68-yard drive where he was 7-for-10 for 80 yards, including a huge 16-yard completion to Grigsby on 3rd-and-6 to put the Spartans into field goal range.
"It's a test of our senior leadership and the people we have on this team – we don't ever give up," Fales said. "No matter what happens, we're going to keep doing the same things."
And with Fales potentially coming back for his senior season along with four of the Spartans' top five receivers, the Military Bowl victory may be the catalyst for an even bigger campaign for both the quarterback and San Jose State.
"We're going to keep it going," he said. "We've got a lot of people coming back. It's going to be a good year next year, too."