The San Jose State Spartans entered Saturday with an 0-1 conference record with defending Mountain West, West Division champion and in-state rival Fresno State coming to town. The Spartans had watched the previous two games slip from their hands, but on Saturday, they gripped a hold of the game and never let go.
The final score of 49-23 does not even justify how one-sided the contest was - between two conference foes who were considered on an even playing field.
Tyler Ervin’s 300 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 42 carries, along with 45 yards receiving on 4 receptions, set the pace for San Jose State. The nearly unstoppable performance also opened up Joe Gray to complete 20 of 23 passes for 252 yards and 3 touchdowns as a replacement for the injured Kenny Potter.
“I am really encouraged with the performance today,” San Jose State head coach Ron Caragher said. “Physical would be the adjective I’d use to describe our play. We talked about 11-man football, and that no single player was going to win this game. Tyler’s (Ervin) performance was amazing, and those guys up front with some two tight end sets worked great”
Fresno State also faced quarterback issues after starter Chason Virgil broke his clavicle last week and backup Zack Greenlee was suspended after an arrest. Third stringer Ford Childress started for the Bulldogs. He would finish 19 of 32 for 159 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.
Special teams gave Childress and the Bulldogs as much help as they could ask for to open the game, but the Spartan defense wouldn't budge.
Fresno State's first drive began at the San Jose State 33-yard line after the opening kick return from Da’Mari Scott. The Spartans stuffed four straight runs for a turnover on downs.
Then the offense picked up the flag and marched 73 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
The cycle would repeat itself as Fresno State had another first quarter possession begin in SJSU territory, only to turnover on downs. The Spartans again capitalized with an eight-play, 61-yard touchdown drive.
“Defensively, I was disturbed that we gave them a short field so many times,” Caragher said. “But our defense stood up and answered the call. There were a couple times that we just didn’t let them move”
Both scores came on 2-yard rushes by Ervin, his eighth and ninth touchdowns of the season.
Fresno State failed to get a single first down in the first quarter, but early in the second quarter they would start a fourth drive in SJSU territory after a Jarrod Lawson fumble and finally scored on a 7-yard pass from Childress to Jamire Jordan.
Gray and Ervin led the Spartan offense downfield one more time before half, capping off with a 20-yard touchdown to a wide open Ervin.
The Spartans had outgained the Bulldogs 279 yards to 93 and had 17 first downs while the Bulldogs had 4 in the first half, but SJSU led only 21-10 at halftime.
San Jose State opened the second half with a 7-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 30 yard, untouched touchdown run by Tyler Ervin.
With a 28-10 lead, the ugly second half mishaps made an appearance.
Fresno State suddenly put a touchdown drive together with six handoffs to running back Marteze Waller followed by a 29-yard play action touchdown pass. On the following drive, San Jose State's first punt attempt of the game resulted punter Michael Carrizosa fumbling the snap for a second straight week. The Bulldogs took over at the SJSU 19-yard line and quickly got into the end zone.
Suddenly the Spartans’ lead was down to 28-23 and things seemed to be slipping away for a third straight week. But this time, the Spartans responded.
A 49-yard touchdown pass from Gray to Tim Crawley on the ensuing drive put the lead up to 12. The Spartans’ defense forced a three-and-out and SJSU was back in control.
San Jose State never looked back as Ervin could not be stopped. The Spartans’ next drive had 10 straight Ervin handoffs, setting up a play action pass from Gray to tight end Billy Freeman for a 9-yard touchdown pass.
“It was a long week of preparation, and our team felt good about the scheme,” Gray said. “The offensive line was great. We did a great job of staying even kilter on both sides of the ball. When we do that, we know good things will come.”
A pick-six by Jimmy Pruitt put the exclamation point on the win for SJSU.
SJSU celebrated one more moment before grabbing ahold of the Valley Trophy. Ervin hit the 300 mark and broke the single game rushing record in SJSU history.
“That was a great win for us,” Ervin said. “It’s a blessing to have all those guys blocking for me. They get their job done, and I just run behind them. If I have to give the game ball to somebody, it’s the guys up front blocking for me all game.”
In all, the Spartans finished with 543 yards and 33 first downs, more than doubling each corresponding Fresno State statistic. The Spartans also converted 7 of 10 third downs after converting only 1 of 13 tries at Oregon State last week.
San Jose State improves to 2-2 on the season and 1-1 in conference play. They will next play at Auburn.