SAN JOSE — When San Jose State went on the defensive, it had a profound effect on the Spartans' offense.
The Spartans converted three turnovers into touchdowns in the final 1:27 of the second quarter and San Jose broke away for a 42-7 victory over Fresno State Saturday to win the Big West Conference championship.
"Our offense has gotten points in spurts all season, and much of the time it's been our defense that turned on the offense," said Terry Shea, who became San Jose's coach when Claude Gilbert was fired last spring.
By winning the Big West title, San Jose State, 8-2-1 overall and 8-0 in the conference, earned a berth in the California Raisin Bowl on Dec. 8 at Fresno against Central Michigan, co-champion of the Mid-American Conference.
Fresno State (8-2-1, 5-1-1) won the Big West title and the California Raisin Bowl titles the past two seasons.
Paul Franklin started the Spartans' surge by intercepting Mark Barsotti's pass and returning it 52 yards to set up Leon Hawthorne's 10-yard touchdown run that broke a 7-7 tie.
On the next series, Franklin intercepted another pass from Barsotti and returned in 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7.
Following the ensuing kickoff, San Jose's Anthony Washington recovered a fumble by Lorenzo Neal at the Fresno 33, setting up Hawthorne's three-yard touchdown run with two seconds left in the half.
"The second quarter really shifted things in our favor," Shea said, "but the second quarter has been one of our most productive all season.
"I told the team we had to keep it going in the third quarter because (Fresno) had been really tough (in the third quarter all season) and we hadn't."
San Jose had outscored opponents, 132-24, in the second quarter before Saturday, but in the third, they were outscored, 45-35.
Shea was concerned because Fresno had outscored opponents, 91-37, in the third quarter, but he shouldn't have worried about it.
Early in the third quarter, the Spartans' Simon Vaoifi recovered Aaron Craver's fumble at the Bulldog six, and San Jose's Sheldon Canley, who rushed for 109 yards, scored on the next play.
Six minutes later, Bobby Blackmon ran 13 yards for a touchdown as San Jose to made it 42-7 with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter.
"Today, San Jose State was a much better football team than they had been against all the others," Fresno Coach Jim Sweeney said. "They operated at high performance in all phases of the game. We just didn't respond today.
"I wish there was something I could do to get San Jose State ranked in the top 20 because they deserve it."
Fresno State scored first on Barsotti's three-yard pass to Craver in the first quarter.
The Spartans got even later in the quarter on Ralph Martini's 23-yard pass to Gary Charlton.
"Our defense made this happen," Hawthorne said. "The turning point was when Franklin got those interceptions. I have to give all the credit to our defense."