Albuquerque, N.M. San Jose State linebacker Matt Castelo saw New Mexico halfback Rodney Ferguson hit the hole near the goal line and prepared for a collision.
"I saw the running back get the ball and it was like in slow motion," Castelo said. "I got down low and I think he tried jumping over me. Tried to put the ball out for a touchdown"
Ferguson never made it.
Castelo hit Ferguson and his helmet knocked the ball out and right into fellow linebacker Damaja Jones' hands. In a season where San Jose State's defense carried the Spartans to their first bowl game in 16 years, Castelo and Jones teamed up for what may have been the biggest stop of the year.
Adam Tafralis threw three touchdown passes and San Jose State beat New Mexico 20-12 on Saturday in the inaugural New Mexico Bowl, extending the Lobos' postseason drought to 45 years.
One big pass play by Tafralis and that costly fumble by Ferguson - both in the first half - set the tone for the Spartans' first bowl win outside of California.
Jones returned Ferguson's fumble 57 yards to the New Mexico 37. Although the Spartans didn't score on that drive, they had the momentum for good.
"I saw Matt set him (Ferguson) up," Jones said. "He tried to jump over Matt and Matt put his helmet right on the ball. I was trying to get over the top and the ball fell right in my hands."
New Mexico (6-7) hasn't won a bowl game since it beat Western Michigan in the 1961 Aviation Bowl and is 0-5 since 1997.
For the Spartans (9-4), the win provided a final highlight in a season in which they won more games than they had in the three previous seasons.
New Mexico's only touchdown came with 15 seconds left in the game on a 15-yard pass from Chris Nelson to Marcus Smith.