This weekend’s home finale for San Jose State against Air Force is just the fourth meeting between both teams and the first meeting in San Jose since Oct. 25, 1997.
Air Force (7-3 overall, 3-3 Mountain West) leads the series 2-1 following last season’s 37-16 victory, but the Spartans (3-7, 2-4 MW) are aiming to knot up the head-to-head margin after a needed bye week.
A win for SJSU would be its third consecutive home win — a streak they haven’t attained since 2012.
Meanwhile, after starting Mountain West play 0-3, the Falcons have been flying high as they head into Saturday night on a three-game winning streak and are bowl eligible for the third straight year.
Despite the Spartans’ recent success at CEFCU Stadium, where they have given up 14 less points during Mountain West play than their season average of 36 points, the Falcons bring in a different style offense that SJSU has been preparing for since entering the bye week.
The Falcons’ triple option offense has thrivingly enabled them to average 34.4 points and 310 rushing yards per game with almost four different rushers eclipsing the 100 carries mark for the season (no SJSU rusher has exceeded 100 rushes).
Senior captain for the Spartans, linebacker Christian Tago, said it’s “tough” going 10 straight weeks of football without a bye week, but it has given the team extra time to prepare for Air Force.
“It [bye week] helps us get a couple more practices in against the triple option, so I think it was really good for us,” Tago said.
On preparing for the Falcons defensively, Tago said, “The second one person doesn’t do their job, the ball is out of there. Everybody needs to stay discipline the entire game.”
Tago is one of 17 seniors that will be honored on Senior Night, which includes tight end from San Francisco, LeVander Brown.
“Excitement and anticipation,” Brown described his emotions leading up to his final home game. “…I really wanted to savor the moments. Practice today, take every moment in, take it slow and just experience it and enjoy this time right now because I won’t get it back.”
Brown didn’t think he’d make it to this point as a kid, calling it “surreal” and “a dream come true” making it this far.
For Tago, getting to this point has also been a whirlwind.
In hopes of playing quarterback out of high school, he had to transition to linebacker full time.
After three healthy, stellar years at linebacker, Tago had to undergo two knee injuries this past summer — setting his senior campaign debut back to Week 4.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Tago said. “There’s a lot of emotions going through me; a lot of sad emotions that it’s going to be my last time in here, but a lot of happy, exciting emotions to take this next step into my career.”
He said the final regular season game of 2013 between the Spartans and then 16th ranked Fresno State with Derek Carr was his most memorable moment. SJSU outlasted the Bulldogs in a 62-52 shootout and Tago, then a freshman, recorded eight tackles.
With the Spartans splitting their last four games, the remaining two games against Air Force and Fresno State is more about gearing up for next season, Tago said.
“The goal these last two games is to build momentum for the young guys next year. I know all the seniors are done, but we want to build momentum going for those young guys next season.”