Turnovers continue to plague Spartans

San Jose State squandered an opportunity to take a big step toward bowl-game eligibility when it visited Louisiana Tech on Oct. 29. The Spartans were seeking their fourth win of the season and their fourth in five games, but instead they suffered a 38-28 loss that squashed any hopes they had of winning the Western Athletic Conference.

The Spartans have been living dangerously for weeks, and this time it cost them. They committed five turnovers against Louisiana Tech and now lead the nation with 26 turnovers in eight games. The Spartans led Louisiana Tech 14-10 midway through the second quarter, but the Bulldogs scored 28 unanswered points over a period of 8:25 spanning the second and third quarters. By the time the barrage was over, the Spartans trailed 38-14.

"Way too many turnovers again," San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre told the San Jose Mercury News. "We turned the ball over three of the times when Tech went on their run. They only had one real drive for points. You cannot give any team a short field like we did tonight. That hurt us."

Senior quarterback Matt Faulkner passed for over 300 yards for the third game in a row and orchestrated a 99-yard drive give the Spartans a glimmer of hope in the final minutes, but he also threw four interceptions. Faulkner has been picked off 11 times in seven games this season, overshadowing some otherwise brilliant passing numbers. In the past three games, Faulkner has completed 85 of 125 (.680) passes for 948 yards with four touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Faulkner threw an interception with 51 seconds remaining in the second quarter, allowing Louisiana Tech to score at the end of the half to take a 24-14 lead. The Bulldogs added another touchdown on the opening drive of the second half and scored again when Faulkner's first pass of the third quarter was intercepted and returned 36 yards for a touchdown.

"Sometimes you just feel like you are in a funk for a big part of the game," Faulkner said. "Things tonight just didn't happen the way that they normally do. We had to spend most of the game catching up. They are well-coached and knew when things would be coming. They did a real good job of covering our receivers and stopping what we were trying to do. Also, I had a lot of mistakes today. I think that hurt us the most." Faulkner will have to be better when the Spartans play host to Idaho on Nov. 5, but he wasn't entirely to blame. San Jose State gained a season-low 12 rushing yards on 17 attempts and gave up 497 total yards to the Bulldogs.

"They just stuffed us," MacIntyre said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--San Jose State gained a turnover for the seventh game in a row when P Harrison Waid recovered a fumble by Louisiana Tech punt returner Andrew Guillot. DE David Tuitupou recovered a fumble later in the game, giving the Spartans a Western Athletic Conference-leading 11 fumble recoveries this season.

--San Jose State has allowed only 16 points in the fourth quarter over the past six games. The Spartans held Louisiana Tech scoreless in the fourth after giving up 38 points through the first three quarters.
--Big plays have been a big part of San Jose State's success this season. WR Noel Grigsby had a 60-yard touchdown reception against Louisiana Tech, the Spartans' seventh play of 40 yards or more this season.

KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Brandon Rutley -- He hasn't been the same since returning from a sprained ankle. Rutley rushed for 340 yards in wins over New Mexico State and Colorado State before the ankle injury forced him to miss the BYU game. In two games since returning to the lineup, Rutley has gained just 93 yards on 39 carries, an average of just 2.4 yards per carry. He was held to 23 yards on 14 carries against Louisiana Tech, his lowest rushing total since the season opener against Stanford.

LOOKING GOOD: San Jose State continues to lead the Western Athletic Conference in takeaways after gaining at least one turnover for the seventh consecutive game against Louisiana Tech. The Spartans recovered two fumbles against the Bulldogs and now have 21 takeaways this season, three more than any other team in the WAC. They lead the conference with 11 fumble recoveries and rank third with 10 interceptions.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Spartans have spent weeks trying to resolve their turnover problems, but so far to no avail. They committed five more turnovers against Louisiana Tech. They have committed 26 turnovers this season, eight more than any other team in the Western Athletic Conference. Despite leading the conference in takeaways, the Spartans have the WAC's second-worst turnover margin.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We fought hard. We just got too far behind. We had a chance late to come back but shot ourselves in the foot with too many mistakes." -- San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, to the San Jose Mercury News, following a 38-28 loss to Louisiana Tech on Oct. 29.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--S James Orth was credited with a season-high 13 tackles against Louisiana Tech, but he failed to come up with an interception for the first time in five games. Orth, a junior who moved to defense from wide receiver last season, had interceptions in each of the previous four games, tying a school record shared by three other players.
--P Harrison Waid had an eventful day when San Jose State played Louisiana Tech on Oct. 29. Waid averaged 49.9 yards per punt, had a 20-yard return on a fumble recovery and completed a pass for 11 yards on a fake punt.

--WR Chandler Jones had a season-high nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown against Louisiana Tech. Jones has scored four touchdowns in the past two games.

ROSTER REPORT

--S Duke Ihenacho's remarkable blocked PAT return against Hawaii on Oct. 14 has been nominated for the GEICO Play of the Year. Ihenacho scooped up the loose ball after Travis Johnson blocked an extra-point attempt. Ihenacho reached midfield before pulling up with a strained hamstring. He slowed up momentarily while clutching the back of his leg, but with nothing but open field in front of him Ihenacho shifted gears, pushing himself through the pain. The rare two-point defensive conversion was perhaps the biggest play in San Jose State's 28-27 victory over the Warriors.
--WR Noel Grigsby and WR Chandler Jones aren't the most imposing figures on the football field. Grigsby stands 5-foot-11, Grigsby is just 5-9 and each weighs just 170 pounds, but San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre said they're making a major impact for the Spartans. Grigsby and Jones combined for 17 catches for 193 yards against Louisiana Tech.

"I call 'em the toughest little guys in America," MacIntyre told the Mercury-News. "They have no fear."



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