TSX Files: Spartans Need to Finish

San Jose State has made unmistakable progress in its second season under coach Mike MacIntyre, but the Spartans squandered another opportunity and saw their bowl hopes dashed with a 34-33 loss at Utah State on Nov. 12.

The Spartans had their hearts broken for the second week in a row after blowing another double-digit lead in the second half. They led 33-21 with 8:21 remaining before Utah State quarterback Adam Kennedy brought the Aggies back. He threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Travis Van Leeuwen with 5:19 left and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Matt Austin with 47 seconds to play, eliminating San Jose State from bowl consideration. Spartans' kicker Jens Alvernik set a single-game school record with four field goals but had his 67-yard attempt blocked as time expired.

A week earlier, the Spartans jumped out to a 20-0 lead against Idaho a week only to see it come unraveled in a stunning second-half collapse. The Vandals scored 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to prevail 32-29.

"It's crushing," San Jose State quarterback Matt Faulkner told the San Jose Mercury News. "Same as last week -- you just lose it in the fourth quarter. You hate it when you can't come through and just somehow finish a game. It came down again to they made a few more plays than we did, and it's been the same story the last couple of weeks."

The Spartans are 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the Western Athletic Conference with two games to play. They will play host to Navy in a nonconference game on Nov. 19 before concluding the regular season with a WAC game at Fresno State on Nov. 26. The Spartans can finish no better than 5-7, which would leave them one win short of the six victories they would need to become bowl eligible.

"Right now, we're hurt," defensive end Travis Johnson said. "We just have to keep fighting next week and the week after that."

MacIntyre knows his players are disappointed. The Spartans have lost three consecutive games by a total of 14 points. They lost the last two by a total of four points.

"We played well enough to definitely win the last two games," MacIntyre said. "There's no doubt whatsoever. We just came up on the short end."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Utah State rallied from a double-digit deficit and scored in the final minute to beat San Jose State for the second year in a row. QB Adam Kennedy threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Matt Austin with 47 seconds remaining to give the Aggies a 34-33 victory Nov. 12 in Logan, Utah. RB Derrvin Speight scored on a 15-yard run with 34 seconds remaining last season in San Jose, lifting the Aggies to a 38-34 victory.
--San Jose State extended its Western Athletic Conference road losing streak to 11 games with the loss to Utah State. The Spartans haven't won a WAC game on the road since beating Idaho 30-24 on Nov. 1, 2008.
--San Jose State has scored 230 points in 10 games this season, surpassing the point totals of the 2009 and 2010 teams. They need 15 points to surpass the 2007 team's total of 245 points.

KEEP AN EYE ON: San Jose State may have resolved its problem with turnovers. The Spartans had a total of two turnovers in the past two games after committing 11 turnovers in their two previous games against Hawaii and Louisiana Tech. The Spartans lost one fumble against Idaho and another against Utah State. QB Matt Faulkner did not throw an interception in either contest after being picked off 11 times in his first seven games.

LOOKING GOOD: The Spartans have gained at least one turnover in nine consecutive games after recording two takeaways in the Nov. 12 loss to Utah State. Senior S Duke Ihenacho, senior DE Mohamed Marah, sophomore DE Cedric Lousi and sophomore CB Damon Ogburn Jr. recovered fumbles, and senior CB Peyton Thompson had an interception. The Spartans lead the Western Athletic Conference with 29 takeaways.

STILL NEEDS WORK: San Jose State has to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Spartans were able to do that when they recorded a season-high five sacks in a Nov. 5 loss to Idaho, but they reverted to form with one sack against Utah State. The Spartans are last in the Western Athletic Conference with 13 sacks in 10 games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They made a couple plays in the fourth quarter, and we didn't. I thought we had a couple picks, and they came down with the ball. I thought we had a couple catches, and the ball just falls out at the last second. It was a matter of inches." -- San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre, to the San Jose Mercury News, following a 34-33 loss to Utah State.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--Junior DE Travis Johnson failed to record a sack against Utah State after tying a school record with four against Idaho on Nov. 5. Johnson is tied for second in the Western Athletic Conference with eight sacks.>br> --Senior RB Brandon Rutley hasn't been as explosive out of the backfield since suffering a sprained ankle in early October. He rushed for 340 yards in victories over New Mexico State and Colorado State before the ankle injury forced him to miss the BYU game on Oct. 8. In four games since returning to the field, Rutley has rushed for 194 yards on 79 carries, an average of 2.5 yards per carry.
--Senior QB Matt Faulkner has completed 56 of 90 passes for 629 yards without throwing an interception in his past two games. Faulkner threw nine interceptions in his previous three games, including a career-high four against Louisiana Tech on Oct. 29. He completed 29 of 41 for 289 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against Idaho. He completed 27 of 49 for 340 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against Utah State.
--Freshman Tyler Ervin scored on a 95-yard kickoff return in the first quarter against Utah State. It was the first time the Spartans have returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2005.

ROSTER REPORT

--OL Fred Koloto was seen limping early in the week and did not play against Utah State after logging considerable playing time against Louisiana Tech on Oct. 29. The senior guard missed the two previous games with a sprained right knee.
--WR Noel Grigsby was held to four catches for 50 yards in the loss at Utah State. Grigsby went into the game first in the Western Athletic Conference with 7.8 receptions per game and sixth with 72.1 receiving yards per game. He had 11 catches against Idaho on Nov. 5 to become the seventh San Jose State player to catch 70 or more passes in a season. He has 74 catches this season and needs just 12 more to break the single-season school record.
--K Jens Alvernik set a single-game school record with four field goals against Utah State. Alvernik made field goals of 27, 38, 21 and 24 yards before having his 67-yard attempt blocked as time expired.



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