San Jose State Spartans football held its final scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday, two weeks before its season opener. The offense did not produce as much scoring as in the spring scrimmage and committed eight penalties, but the defense had some highlight reel-worthy plays, including turnovers and hurrying the quarterback.
Kenny Potter, a senior expected to return as starting quarterback, completed 10 of 21 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Potter also rushed for 35 yards on 6 carries. Several of Potter’s passes sailed far past his targeted receivers, including one pass in an overtime drill on second down and 9 that flew into the stands. Although Potter completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Justin Holmes to end the first half, sophomore Sam Allen stole the show by scoring the blue team’s first touchdown of the scrimmage on a one-yard sneak. A junior college transfer, Allen completed all five of his passes for 127 yards, including two for 46 yards each for the longest passes of the game.
Redshirt freshman Josh Love completed 7 of 10 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. True freshman Montel Aaron completed 1 of 4 passes for 7 yards, and junior Michael Carrillo, also a junior college transfer, completed 1 of 3 passes for 9 yards. The five quarterbacks combined to complete 24 of 43 passes for 336 yards.
Sophomore Tre Hartley led all receivers with 100 yards on three catches. Senior Tyler Winston, who will sit out the season for academic reasons, had four receptions for 44 yards, and sophomore Thai Cottrell was close behind had 43 receiving yards on four catches. Senior Tim Crawley had three catches, including a touchdown, for 31 yards. In other positions, junior fullback Brandon Monroe caught two passes for 29 yards, and sophomore tight end Josh Oliver had 21 yards on two catches. Senior tight end Billy Freeman, who has over 1,000 career receiving yards, played mostly blocking in the scrimmage and caught one 6-yard pass.
In contrast to the 336 passing yards, the offense produced just 114 rushing yards on 45 carries. Graduate transfer Deontae Cooper led running backs with 45 yards on 13 carries. Redshirt freshman Zamore Zigler had 33 yards on seven carries, including a touchdown. True freshman Jamar Williams rushed for 25 yards on seven carries, and sophomore Malik Roberson had 13 yards on four carries. Although redshirt freshman wide receiver Bailey Gaither did not complete any passes towards him, including a drop, Gaither had 7 rushing yards on a carry. Zigler also had the longest running play by a non-quarterback, with a 9-yard rush to open the second half.
Coaches attributed the limited rushing yards to a stronger defense.
"We want to stop the run, that's really the foundation of everything we're doing," San Jose State Defensive Coordinator Ron English said. "That requires discipline, that requires toughness, that requires effort and leveraging the football. If we do that and trust our teammates, we'll play good run defense. The guys know what I'm all about and what I want here. They're trying to give it to me and I think we're getting better all the time."
"I think we're getting better and just playing every play and not getting distracted by the outcome of the play," English added. I liked the energy and the execution was really good... It's been gratifying to see us get better and stay with it."
Additionally, the defense forced three fumbles, with redshirt sophomore safety Chad Miller recovering one. Freshman linebacker Brett Foley knocked down one Potter pass at the line of scrimmage and had two tackles on Cooper, including one for a loss. Six different players sacked quarterbacks, including senior Alex Manigo with two. Sophomore defensive tackle Bryson Bridges had two other tackles for loss in addition to a sack. Sophomore safety Jeremy Kelly broke up two passes, and others who covered on incomplete passes included senior linebacker Mark Amann and freshmen cornerbacks Mato Pacheco, Dehlon Preston, and Tre Webb.
Said SJSU Head Coach Ron Caragher, "I thought from a defensive standpoint, I loved how our guys swarmed the football. I thought they did a really effective job stopping the run, particularly early in the scrimmage. We want our defense to be very gap-sound and I thought all in all the guys played hard, created turnovers and looked as good as we've looked all fall camp."
On special teams, junior punter Michael Carrizosa emerged from a second-team All-American sophomore season contending to be the kickoff specialist. In kickoff drills that began the scrimmage, Carrizosa boomed his kicks deep into the end zone, in contrast to sophomore Bryce Crawford’s more shallow kickoff that landed closer to the goal line. Crawford also made two of three field goals; he hit from 44 and 45 yards but pushed a 50-yard attempt wide right. Junior college transfer Jake Lanski booted two of two extra point attempts and a 25-yard field goal.
After the scrimmage, Caragher called his players for a meeting, then directed them to look at the video scoreboard. On the video display was a list of seven walk-on players who earned scholarships for the coming season. Hartley, Love, and senior tight end LeVander Brown were the three offensive winners of scholarships. On defense, Manigo and Amann got scholarships, in addition to senior linebacker Epie Sona and sophomore defensive back Chandler Hawkins.
"That was really exciting," Caragher said. "One of the funnest things of what we do every year is I'll award some scholarships to players in our program. Tonight we awarded seven of them to seven young men that have put forth a great effort and significant contributions here and have worked just as hard as everyone else, but they're doing it as walk-ons. I was able to award them and it was really exciting to be able to do that.
"I think if you add up the last three years, I would be very pleasantly surprised if another team in the country gave out more scholarships to walk-ons in the last three and a half years... Those guys have had really good fall camps and have taken care of business off the field so I'm really proud to give them a scholarship offer. What you saw was the team erupting and going crazy at their friends and peers and being really proud of them."
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