Third in a four-part series
San Jose State at New Mexico State, October 18th, Win, 31 – 14 (Attendance: 20,607)
The Spartans took their 4 – 2 record to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to face Aggie quarterback Chase Holbrook, Head Coach Hal Mumme, and their much-ballyhooed passing game. But the New Mexico "Air Raid" ran smack-dab into the Spartan "Flak Attack," and when the dust cleared, San Jose State claimed its fifth win on the year. Once again, this game was all about defense.
San Jose State scored first, a little more than one minute into the game, on a Yonus Davis touchdown run of 32 yards. The Spartans scored second, less than five minutes into the game, on a 90-yard pass interception by Kyle Flynn. The Spartans scored third, a minute into the second quarter, on Duke Ihenacho's 43-yard interception return. Although the Aggies would answer with a TD of their own less than three minutes later, the Spartans had already scored enough to win. At the half, it was SJSU 21, New Mexico 7.
The Spartan defense held New Mexico scoreless in the third, but the New Mexico defense did the same to the Spartans. New Mexico scored a TD about one minute into the fourth period, making the score 21 – 14, but that was as close as they got. SJSU closed out the scoring on a Jared Strubeck field goal (33 yards), and a 12-yard TD run by Brandon Rutley.
Chase Holbrook was sacked five times, and threw the two TD interceptions. But Kyle Reed wasn't much better, tossing three interceptions, and completing just 8 of 18 pass attempts for a meager 50 yards. On third downs, the Spartans converted just four of 14 attempts. But Strubeck was perfect on the night, hitting all three of his PAT attempts, and his only field goal attempt.
As SJSU left Las Cruces with their 5 – 2 record, nobody noticed the dark clouds on their horizon. They were atop the WAC with a 3 – 0 mark, and had bowl hopes dancing in their fans' heads. Their next stop: at home against Boise State.
Boise State vs. SJSU, October 24th, Loss, 16 – 33 (Attendance: 26, 258)
As of October 23, 2008, the Spartans were 0 – 8 against Boise State. As of October 24, 2008, they are 0 – 9. Boise came into Spartan Stadium ranked twelfth in the national polls, sporting a record of 6 – 0, with the number-two scoring defense in the country. They took an early first-quarter lead on Kellen Moore's five-yard TD pass to Austin Pettis. (The Broncos went for the two-point conversion, though, and failed.)
San Jose State answered about three minutes later, when Justin Cole picked Moore, returning it 62 yards for a TD. (The Spartans went for the one-point conversion, and they failed, too.) Broncos 6, Spartans 6.
Boise struck again early in the second, when Moore hit Jeremy Childs with an eight-yard pass. Ian Johnson capped a 75-yard, six-play drive not quite four minutes later, and the score stood at 20 – 6, Boise. It looked like the route was on.
It may have been, but somebody forgot to tell the Spartans. After putting together another long drive (77 yards in 12 plays), Ian Johnson had a non-stop ticket to the Spartan end zone when he coughed up the ball. San Jose State recovered, and with 1:34 left in the half, took over at their own 20. Over the next 1:28, Kyle Reed moved the team on eight plays to the Boise State 30 and a first down. Choosing to try the field goal then and there, Strubeck's boot was good. At intermission, it was Boise State 20, San Jose State 9.
The two teams traded possessions to open the second half. On its second possession of the half, the Spartans moved to their own 40. From there, on third-and-one, Brandon Rutley found a hole on the left side of the line, and scampered the remaining 60 yards for a touchdown. Strubeck's extra point attempt was good, and the Spartans had pulled to within four points, 16 – 20.
Boise State engineered a 12-play, 55-yard drive on their next possession, but the Spartan defense required they settle for a field goal. As in Lincoln, and at Stanford, the Spartans trailed, but were still in the game going into the fourth quarter, 16 - 23.
Opening the fourth with the ball at their own 20-yard line, Reed & company moved to the Boise 44, aided by a personal foul called against the Broncos. Spartan fans were aching for a come-from-behind upset. But San Jose State would come no closer, as Josh Harrison fumbled after catching a six-yard toss from Reed.
The Broncos immediately put together another drive, but were again held to a field goal by the Spartan defense. It was 16 – 26, Boise State, with under six minutes to play. San Jose State went three-and-out on its next possession, and Boise State iced it with a seven-play, 55-yard drive culminating in an Ian Johnson touchdown.
The game was eerily similar to the Nebraska and Stanford losses. The Spartan defense kept the team in it into the fourth quarter, but the offense had trouble moving the ball. San Jose State made just nine first downs on the night (compared to BSU's 28), and was just 3-of-13 on third-down conversions. Reed was 16-of-29 through the air, but for a very paltry 105 yards (a 3.6 yard average). And, although the Spartans gained 105 yards rushing, 60 of it came on Rutley's TD burst. Jared Strubeck made his only field goal attempt, but missed an extra point.
One indication of how hard-fought this game was were the penalty totals: 11 on each team for a total of 201 yards.
Despite another tough loss, the Spartans and their fans looked ahead to Idaho. With their record at 5 – 3, and four games left to play, a good season and a bowl berth were still possible.
SJSU at Idaho, November 1st, Win, 30 – 24 (Attendance: 15,002)
Some may have figured the Spartans would have an easy time of it in Moscow, Idaho. They would have been wrong. The hapless Vandals were just 2 – 7, and counted as one of the weakest teams in America. But the Vandals came within six points of a come-from-behind win. Here's how it happened.
The Vandals scored first, on an 18-yard Nathan Enderle pass to Lee Smith, early in the first quarter. San Jose State answered with a TD of their own, and added a Strubeck field goal early in the second. The Spartans led, 10 – 7.
But, later in the second, Idaho put together an eight-play, 42-yard drive, and Tino Amancio's 30-yard field goal tied the score at 10.
San Jose State answered on its next drive when Myles Eden, starting in place of Kyle Reed (who had a bruised tailbone) hit Dave Richmond with a 63-yard TD pass.
The teams then traded possessions, and it looked like the half would end with the score 17 – 10, San Jose State. But Enderle fumbled at his own 32, San Jose State recovered with just four seconds left, and Strubeck's second field goal of the game gave the Spartans a 20 – 10 half-time lead.
The Spartans opened the second half with a seven-play, 56-yard drive, adding three more points on Strubeck's third field goal of the afternoon. The SJSU defense next stopped the Vandals on downs. San Jose State, taking over on its own 32-yard line, went 68-yards in nine plays, scoring on Eden's second touchdown toss of the day to Dave Richmond. Strubeck's third PAT attempt was GOOD!!!! San Jose State had scored 20 unanswered points, and it looked to be all over but the crying. But, like the week before, somebody forgot to tell the Vandals.
Idaho scored two TDs in the fourth quarter, had Old Mo' on their side, and the Spartans were hanging on to a tenuous 30 – 24 lead. With 2:42 left in the game, the Vandals attempted an on-side kick. Jeff Clark pounced on it, and the Spartans ran out the clock to win.
Eden was 23-of-31 for 295 yards, 2 TDs, and just one interception. The Spartans added 105 yards on the ground, tallied 401 yards total, and converted 6-of-15 third down attempts. Jared Strubeck was perfect on the day.
At 6 – 3, having clinched at least bowl eligibility, it seemed the offense had finally arrived. With three games to go (two at home), one more win, a 7 – 5 season record, and a second bowl berth in the Dick Tomey era were within reach. The Spartans' next stop: Waterloo.
Next: Louisiana Tech, Nevada, Fresno State. (Buy a box of tissue.)
Stanford, Hawai'i, Utah State
UC Davis, Nebraska, San Diego State
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R. P. Cotta, Jr., is an Associate Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact R.P with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
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