The Spartans have a chance to announce themselves to the college football world, even if it's just a brief introduction, as they play undefeated Boise State Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
Second-year coach Dick Tomey has guided the Spartans to eight wins in the past 10 games, including a 6-2 mark this season.
"Coach (Dick) Tomey has done an unbelievable job with those guys," BSU coach Chris Petersen said. "They've just got them playing hard and they've got them believing. Everybody around here knew when he got the job it would just be a matter of time before that happened."
San Jose State has won seven straight at home and has shut out four of its eight opponents this season in the second half. Overall, San Jose has outscored opponents 109-41 in the second half.
"It's an opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the nation," Tomey said. "We played them last year. I was told when we went up there last year that our average score there was 62-6 or something. We got beat 38-21. We had a chance in the fourth quarter if we could have just made a few plays, but it wasn't that close a game. This year, I think we are a different team.
"Actually, they are a different team. Petersen took a job that was well done, and I think that he's doing it even better. Their defense is playing better, and offensively, they are just a machine. It will be good for us to find out where we are. We are in the conference race, and if we want to stay in the race, we have to find a way to win this week. That's our challenge. We are excited about the opportunity."
Bowl officials will be on hand to measure San Jose State's home crowd. It has averaged around 17,600 fans per home game this season, which ranks 100th in the nation. Spartan Stadium's capacity is 30,456.
"I have no control over the atmosphere," Tomey said. "We've had a good atmosphere at home, and I expect it to be the best that it's been. The coaches and players need to worry about how we do and what we do, and getting ourselves better prepared this week than we have been all year."
WAC commissioner Karl Benson said that 20,000 fans would show Poinsettia Bowl officials that Spartans fans are excited about the team. If San Jose finishes 8-4, it could land in that bowl -- which is played in San Diego -- against an ACC team.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Spartans have morphed into a mini version of Boise State, running the ball to set up the play-action pass. However, they might ditch that philosophy and focus on the pass, as pass-happy offenses have given Boise State trouble. That would put the onus on San Jose State QB Adam Tafralis.
"Adam has played terrific," San Jose State coach Dick Tomey said. "He has played winning football. We haven't asked him to throw the ball a lot, but when he has, he's made no mistakes with the ball. He has handled the offense. He has got us out of the plays that we needed to get out of. He has run the ball effectively. He is making quicker decisions to run the ball.
"He was a little indecisive early (in the season), and he is making quicker decisions to keep it and run. Last week he had 38-40 yards rushing, and really helped us move the chains at times. He has been doing a really, really good job. Adam's such a tough guy. The things that win at quarterback are leadership, judgment and toughness, and guys that just make plays and guys who are unselfish. But obviously at times, you have to make a throw to win, and he's made some of those, too. He's done a terrific job."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: San Jose State leads the WAC in pass defense at 186 yards allowed per game and trails only Boise State in scoring defense at 19.2 points per game. Boise State likely will pound the ball with RB Ian Johnson.
"Ian Johnson is such a competitive runner, and so quick. He can make a cut on a dime," Tomey said. "He is a north-south runner. He fights for every yard. You think he's down, and all of a sudden he gets four more yards. He is just an exceptional (running) back. They have got other (terrific players), but Ian Johnson is the one that really makes them go.
"You check the quarterback's won-loss record, to figure out what kind of a quarterback he is. You don't check his stats. The best quarterbacks win, and that's what (Jared) Zabransky does. He wins. He finds a way. I think that he is a better quarterback this year than he was last year. He's making fewer mistakes with the ball. He is running very effectively. Coach (Petersen) has put his legs into the game more. He just makes good decisions. He has done a superb job."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Players like to play against what's perceived to be the ?big dog.' Everybody likes to test themselves against somebody that you really respect, somebody that is acknowledged to be, over the past four or five years, the best team in your conference. Everybody likes that challenge. We are getting to play (Boise State) at home coming off another victory, where we have a lot of confidence in ourselves as well. We've had a lot of success (at home). We want to be in the conference race. If we can win, we are in the conference race, and we know that it's that simple. It's not simple winning, but if we don't, then we are probably not in the conference race. We have great respect for them. We know it's going to take a great effort on our part, and we are just crazy enough to think that we can come up with one." -- San Jose State coach Dick Tomey on playing unbeaten Boise State.
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Boise State at San Jose State, Nov. 11 -- While many pundits have already penciled Boise State in at 12-0, the Broncos have two tough games remaining, including this one. San Jose State is 6-2 and 3-1 in the WAC, while the Broncos are one of five remaining undefeated D-1 teams -- 9-0 and 5-0 in the conference. The Spartans have never defeated Boise State in six meetings, including last season's 38-21 loss. The last time the teams met in San Jose, the Broncos escaped with a 56-49 double-overtime victory.
Boise State is 36-1 in the conference since 2002, while San Jose State has won seven straight at home. Boise State's interior linemen on both sides have a distinct advantage, which could be the difference.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Yonus Davis -- Has become a force, averaging 107.6 yards per game and 7.4 yards per carry this season. But he hasn't faced Boise State's front seven. How often he can get to the outside will likely be instrumental in the outcome.
QB Adam Tafralis -- Has played well the past two weeks after a horror-show performance against Nevada. There's a chance San Jose State comes out throwing against Boise State.
LB Matt Castelo -- Boise State loves to run, and Castelo is San Jose State's top run defender.
ROSTER REPORT: CB Dwight Lowery, who is tied for the D-1 lead with eight interceptions, suffered a groin injury last week against New Mexico State. He isn't expected to practice until Wednesday or Thursday, San Jose State Dick Tomey said Monday that he expects Lowery to play against Boise State.
WR John Broussard owns the nation's longest streak of consecutive games with a reception, at 30.
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