San Jose State rallies to win inaugural AutoNation CureBowl


Bob Mora / Valencia Voice

Tyler Ervin rushed for 132 yards on 30 carries and returned a punt for a touchdown to claim his spot as the school all-time single-season rushing leader.

ORLANDO – Kenny Potter was named the AutoNation Cure Bowl MVP as he completed 10-of-19 passes for 89 yards and one touchdown while running in one more to help the San Jose State Spartans defeat the Georgia State Panthers 27-16 in the inaugural Cure Bowl matchup Saturday night.

Any Bowl games first run can be a difficult or an unlucky situation, but that was not the case for the Cure Bowl. As the nation’s only Bowl game where ticket sale proceeds go directly to a charitable cause, the AutoNation Cure Bowl made a statement by donating over $1 million to the Breast Cancer Research Fund.

AutoNation donated a total of $1 million to the cause. The Orlando Sports Foundation donated $150,000 towards the effort, which was the largest charitable donation by any bowl game ever.

The victory marked the fourth bowl game victory in a row for San Jose State, a task seemingly impossible for the 5-7 team that came into Saturday’s game. With the lack of Bowl eligible teams this year, the NCAA had to resort to allowing a few 5-7 teams into the postseason. The rankings were decided by the team’s APR, or Academic Progress Rate. San Jose State held the fifth spot with an APR of 975.

“It’s about the guy’s, we wanted to send our seniors off victoriously in their final game.” said head coach Ron Caragher about the win. “Being part of a bowl with a philanthropic type of approach to the game, and giving to such a good cause, really is a blessing. It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of this game.”

Coach Caragher sat his players down before leaving for Orlando and asked who had been affected by cancer in their lives, and almost every single person raised their hands. With the cause being greater than the game itself, the Cure Bowl has made an impact on players, fans, survivors and coaches alike.

“Playing in a bowl game that has such a significant cause that affects so many lives, breast cancer is something that affects many people. It’s something that hits home for a lot of people. so it was an honor to play this game.” said Tyler Ervin about the true reason the two teams met on Saturday.

The uniqueness of the Cure Bowl is sure to make a lasting impression on the NCAA as a whole, with the largest donation from a bowl game ever recorded being made to a charitable organization.

The first score of the game came five minutes into the second quarter from a 19-yard field goal from Spartan kicker Austin Lopez after a 14-play, 75-yard drive that took over seven minutes of game time.

“We just didn’t come out very strong, we weren’t clicking as an offense and it starts with me, I didn’t play well in the first half and not really well in the third quarter, but it picked up in the fourth quarter.” said Potter about their slow start. “The defense kept us in the game and Tyler’s punt return was incredible and kept us in the game.”

Georgia State followed the Spartans scoring drive with a quick three-and-out and was forced to punt it away to Tyler Ervin who took it all the way home on an 85-yard punt return to bring San Jose up 10-0. The return was his second this season, fifth in his career and was the longest return of his career.

Leading the Spartan offense was senior running back Ervin, who is second in the FBS in all purpose yards, with 132 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown against the Panthers. Ervin also broke the school single-season rushing record.

“Ervin, who we know is a special player, special athlete, had that punt return in the game that was an electrifying play, and we’re really excited about that.. Our team is really fired up that Ervin now has the San Jose State all-time single-season rushing record.” said Caragher about his player.

The Panthers kept their chances alive with a deep 29-yard pass from Nick Arbuckle to Ari Werts then made on the board for the first time with a 38-yard completion in the endzone from Arbuckle to receiver Donovan Harden on a flag route to lessen the gap to 10-7.

Converting third downs ended up being the proverbial nail in the hoof for Georgia State converting only 1 of 10 third downs and going three-and-out five times.

A 19-yard field goal late in the third quarter from Lopez widened the gap for the Spartans increasing their lead to 13-7 with only two seconds remaining in the third.

The ensuing drive from Georgia State resulted in another three-and-out but the following punt set San Jose in dangerous territory on the 4-yard line that San Jose was unable to escape with a bad snap from center Keoni Tayle that is dropped and recovered in the endzone for a safety narrowing their lead to 13-9.

San Jose came back with full force however with a 42-yard rushing touchdown from Kenny Potter that brought San Jose up 20-16. His seventh rushing TD of the season tied the school single season record for quarterback rushing touchdowns.

The Spartans executed the dagger with a final touchdown with a 2-yard pass from Potter to Josh Oliver who made the high-flying catch to bring San Jose up 27-16.

The win was secured with an interception in the endzone by Spartan cornerback Andre Chachere in the final 48 seconds of the game.

“The bowl is an experience of four days that will live on with our players, coaches and staff for a long time.” said Caragher.