What a Rush!
Suddenly, it was almost more relief than it was ecstasy.
Dwight Lowery clutched his school record ninth interception of the year to seal the Spartans' 24-14 victory over Fresno State, ending the Bulldogs' 16 year stranglehold. But even in the midst of frenzied celebration, Spartan fans couldn't help but think of those two simple words:
As a member of Spartan Squad, I've had the privilege of rushing the field at Spartan Stadium three times this past season, Fresno being the latest. But all three times the Squad jumped the rail to conquer the field signified something different, and each time reflected the direction of the San Jose State program.
1) September 9 – Stanford: It was surreal
The Stanford game was first, and was also the pinnacle of sports experience in my life. Not even winning a CIF section championship in baseball my sophomore year in high school matches it.
The truth is, the Stanford game was resting on the minds of leaders and faithful members of Spartan Squad for months before the teams kicked off on that Saturday afternoon in early September. We worked arduously week in and week out over summer in hopes of educating all the incoming freshmen of how important this game was.
Though we didn't want to put pressure on Coach Tomey and his team, we believed that the Stanford game would set the tone for the team and as well as the support level for the season ahead.
"You know what's going to make all this hard work worth it?" Associated Students Campus Recreation and Special Projects Manager Randy Saffold told me. "If we beat Stanford."
The clock ran down to 0:00. The scoreboard read "SJSU 35, Stanford 34." We looked at one another, huge grins the only things our faces could muster, and we didn't hesitate; we rushed the field. We had to.
What makes the Stanford field-rushing different from the others was its surrealism. It honestly felt like a dream, and we didn't jump out of the stands and onto the field, we just about floated. More importantly, however, it gave Spartan fans the sense that SJSU could do just about anything, and it would be reflected in the success of the football program for the remainder of the season.
"I've been here 20 years," Associated Students Print Shop Manager Paul Lee told me in the parking lot after the game. "And this game…this is the best."
I've only been on Earth 20 years, but at this juncture, I'm going to have to agree.
2) October 14 – Utah State: Because it was Homecoming
Believe it or not, we at Spartan Squad ask ourselves one question before every game, without fail. And that question is this: is this game a "field-rushing" game?
Certain games call for it.
Upset games, rivalry games, it often depends on the situation. In my eyes, Utah State was not a "field-rushing" game, as much as it pains me to admit that now.
But as the clock wound down and the Spartans secured a hard fought 21-14 win over the Aggies, one student jumped the rail to take the field. Then a second. Then a dozen. After about 10 seconds I found myself running towards midfield with the rest of my faithful Squad companions.
I looked around and actually said, "Why are we rushing the field?"
"Because, it's Homecoming!" someone shouted back.
Good enough for me.
Rushing the field at the Utah State game sent signals from the students to the faithful alumni that had indeed come home. The Squad rushed the field to show alumni that they really did care for these Spartans, just as older Spartan fans always had.
3) December 2 – Fresno State: More to come
If beating Stanford and rushing the field was surreal, and climbing the rails at Homecoming was a sign of appreciation to alumni, then taking the field after the Fresno game was about something new.
It was as though the previous 16 years has been erased, as though San Jose State had always been the dominant fighter in this rivalry. We felt as though we told Fresno that we're taking over, and they're not ever getting the upper hand again.
Not while this Squad is in school.
As elated as the Squad was to have finally been a part of beating Fresno, we almost expected it to happen. Fresno was down, San Jose was up, and it seemed simple enough. But it was still too simple of an explanation. We needed further reasoning as to why we were going to beat the Bulldogs.
On the Wednesday before the game, Coach Tomey held a question and answer session in the Student Union outdoor amphitheatre in which about a dozen or so Squad members attended and threw the beloved coach some curious inquiries.
In talking about the win the week before at Idaho, Tomey regaled students of having a snowball fight with players the night before the game. That's right, just imagine James Jones and Jared Strubeck pegging Matt Cantu and Yonus Davis with snowballs. Chances are, it happened.
It loosened them up, and they defeated the Vandals, where the only thing cold was Dennis Erickson's reaction to Sparta's head of the household in Tomey.
Just to hear that Coach Tomey would let his players have, of all things, a snowball fight before a big game told us enough: the team is not tense, and the players know how good they can be.
Fresno never stood a chance.
Even when they managed to tie the game at 14-14, they never stood a chance.
From the opening kick, Spartan Squad knew we would be rushing the field that day, there was never a doubt.
And Spartan Squad members are tougher than most people might think.
As we jumped around with the players at mid-field, linebacker Matt Castelo's helmet accidentally smacked yours truly in the face, causing my nose to bleed.
I touched my hand to my nose to see that I was indeed bleeding. I paused for a moment, and then continued to jump, hoot, holler, and whatever else I thought necessary to take the opportunity to celebrate the win further.
A silly little bloody nose wasn't going to stop me. Nothing was broken, by the way, and no, I don't blame Castelo.
How can you blame a guy who had two 20 tackle games this season, anyways?
But even in the midst of frenzied celebration, Spartan fans couldn't help but think of three very telling words: more to come.
Fight on, Spartans. See you in Albuquerque!
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