I had hoped to be writing the 2002 season ending article during the first week of January (2003), following the Silicon Valley Football Classic.
Alas, it was not meant to be. After a very tough, hard fought game against a determined Fresno State team, the Spartans bowl chances disappeared faster than you can say "Who let the dogs out".
I apologize for not keeping up with my articles during the later portion of the season. But, family commitments, and my work schedule did not allow me the time.
That's not to say that I wasn't actively following our beloved Spartans. I was still able to attend all the home games (naturally) and tune it to the road games as well.
Despite the bitter ending, I must say that overall I was very pleased with the how the season turned out, and with the improvement of the program from where it was at the end of last year.
The 2002 Spartans have much to be proud of. Finishing the season with an overall 6-7 record, they tied Boise State with the most road victories by a WAC team (4).
Of course it helps if you're playing (9) of your (13) games on the road. One of those road victories included a dramatic 38-35 victory over defending Big-10 champ Illinois.
The Spartans placed fourth in the WAC standings with a conference record of 4-4. With 6 victories, SJSU doubled it's win total from the previous year (if they achieve that same feat next year, they'll play in a BCS bowl!).
Prior to the start of the 2002 campaign, the Spartans were picked by most publications to finish anywhere from eighth to dead last in the WAC.
The WAC Coaches Poll had SJSU finishing in 9th place. Despite what the prognosticators said, the program definitely got a lot better in 2002, and is poised to have a fine season next year.
As I've done for the past few years, here are my own post-season awards.
The 2002 Dudies go to….
Offensive Player Of The Year – Scott Rislov
Rislov was the glue that held the Spartans together.
Coming to SJSU last spring from Ellsworth JC in Iowa, this 4.0 GPA student grabbed the starting QB position from a 5th year veteran. He completed 275 of 449 passes (61.2%) for 3,251 yards, 22 TD's and 14 INT's.
His overall efficiency rating was 132.00. He broke the single season school completion record, and nearly broke Mike Perez' single season yardage record, which has stood for 15 years.
With just one season under his belt, he is clearly the best QB at SJSU since Jeff Garcia.
Defensive Player Of The Year – Luke LaHerran
LaHerran led the team in tackles with 120 (53 solo, 67 assisted). He also recorded 13.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, 3 sacks, and 1 interception.
LaHerran was also named WAC Player Of The Week following the Arkansas State game. FWIW, no one played harder in the season finale than LaHerran.
Most Valuable Player – Charles Pauley
Is there anything Pauley didn't do for the Spartans in '02? He not only finished the season as one of the nation's top kick returners (averaging 31.5 yards, 2 TD's including a 98 yarder), he passed for 2 TD's, ran for 3 more, and of course, caught 60 catches for 804 yards and 4 more TD's.
Lineman Of The Year – Tim Provost
Not only will he be named 1st Team All-WAC, and play in the East-West Shrine Game, we'll watch him play on Sundays next year. Filling the hole left behind by the departure of this 4 year starter on the offensive line will be Fitz Hills biggest challenge for next season.
Junior Of The Year – Scott Rislov
Sophomore Of The Year – Josh Powell
Freshman Of The Year – Trestin George
Best Game Of The Year - Illinois
10 great reasons to look forward to next season? Scott Rislov, Kendrick Starling, Gerald Jones, Lamar Ferguson, Josh Powell, Jeff Gordon, Trestin George, Jamall Broussard, Kenji Green, and Philip Perry.
I expect that, come the end of the recruiting period in February, Fitz Hill will announce the names of a lot more great players to join the ten mentioned above.
"If you don't have dreams, you've got nightmares."