Zero. That is the exact number of points the San Jose State Spartans scored in the second half last Saturday in a 35-21 loss to Oregon State.
Not only in that game did San Jose State manage to go through an entire half without scoring - That also has happened multiple times in Ron Caragher’s tenure as head coach:
- The entire second half of a 38-16 loss to Nevada on November 23, 2013. San Jose State actually had a 10-7 lead after the first quarter!
- The last three quarters of a 24-7 loss to Minnesota on September 20, 2014.
- The infamous 13-0 home loss to Hawaii on November 15, 2014.
- The entire second half of the November 21, 2014 game against Utah State, who won 41-7.
- The first three quarters of the season finale on November 29, 2014, a 38-7 loss to San Diego State.
Even though the Oregon State game looked better on paper than the Air Force game, since San Jose State scored on the first drive and had a halftime lead, the fact that the second half offense produced no scoring at all is cause for concern.
It is even more troubling, since such situations have occurred multiple times previously under Caragher. Such repeated occurrences show a lack of strategic adjustments on the part of the coaches.
The Oregon State game provides a unique case, since Joe Gray and Malik Watson played at quarterback in place of the injured starter Kenny Potter. Even if that happened, could not either quarterback at least have led a field goal drive? If either could have done so, San Jose State could have still competed well against Oregon State, given that 14 of Oregon State’s 21 points in the second half came off turnovers.
In his weekly press conference on Monday, Caragher was asked twice about the second half. Caragher acknowledged that the team converted only one of 13 third downs last week.
“When you look at third downs, you look at schemes, and you look at execution,” said Caragher. “I’m confident with our plays, our schemes, [and] our play calling, and I’m very encouraged moving forward, and it’s a matter of just improving in the execution part and continuing to understand what we do best as a football team.”
How can the head coach still express confidence in the team’s play calling, following a game with zero points scored in the second half and especially considering that the one quarterback who led efficient drives last week is very likely not to be active in this weekend’s upcoming rivalry game against Fresno State?
Winning teams do not go multiple games with extended scoring droughts. Last season the Spartans had a 3-9 record, and it shows from the instances of scoring droughts listed previously. Winning teams have offenses that are capable of scoring whenever needed, whether in the first drive or the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.
In his two decades as a Division I offensive coordinator, Al Borges has led offenses in UCLA’s 10-2 season of 1998, Auburn’s 13-0 season of 2004, and Michigan’s 11-2 season of 2011. Creating offensive plays and schemes that give San Jose State large leads and put panic in opponents’ hearts is up to him, and he has a proven track record of doing so.
Ultimately, Saturday’s rivalry game will be a litmus test for the Spartans, because it will show whether Caragher and his staff can coach up a winning team or continue the same mistakes and inefficiency that caused last year’s collapse.