A Promising Start Ends In A Thrashing By USC

Earlier in the week, Head Coach Dick Tomey said that his Spartans were interested in finding out about themselves in order to fix whatever issues they have. What they found out was that they might be able to hang with a team of the caliber of USC for one quarter, but that second quarter is another matter.

A bright, beautiful, 89 degrees day in Los Angeles, with cloudless blue skies that were marred only by the distant smoke emitting from the massive fire in the Angeles National Forest, provided a fantastic setting for the start of the San Jose State football team's 2009 season. The USC Trojans, however, were not nearly as accommodating to the Spartans as was the weather; handing San Jose State a 56-3 thrashing, despite a very respectable 1st quarter showing by San Jose State. The Trojans were led by junior tailback Joe McKnight, who rang up 145 yards and two touchdowns, and true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley who completed 15 of 19 passes for 233 yards and 1 TD in his college debut. In total, the Trojans ran for 343 yards on the ground, using a stable of eight ball carriers.

Earlier in the week, Head Coach Dick Tomey said that his Spartans were interested in finding out about themselves in order to fix whatever issues they have. What they found out was that they might be able to hang with a team of the caliber of USC for one quarter, but that second quarter is another matter. The 3rd and 4th quarters weren't much to celebrate either. The San Jose State coaching staff also identified a bevy of issues that will need to be fixed before next week home opener against the Utah Utes.

To start the game, senior quarterback Kyle Reed was given the keys to the Spartans new, shiny offense when he was named the starter over Jordan LaSecla. Having started 8 games last season, including the game in hostile Lincoln, Nebraska , it made sense for Reed to get the starting nod against the No. 4 ranked Trojans.

Thanks in large part to two USC turnovers and a short 24 yard punt by the Trojans' Billy O'Malley, the Spartans found themselves very much in the game at the end of the 1st quarter. Both teams began the game in similar fashion, with procedure penalties being called on their initial offensive plays from scrimmage. Each team punted on their first possession, with only USC gaining a single first down. Each team fumbled on their next possession. The Spartans dodged a major bullet following Kyle Reeds fumble at the Spartans 32 yard line, when the Trojans' running back Joe McKnight immediately fumbled one play later. After failing to gain a first down, Spartans' punter Philip Zavala pinned USC at their own 11 yard line with a 42 yard punt against the wind. The Trojans went three and out on the following possession, capped by a Mohamed Marah sack of USC quarterback Matt Barkly. The subsequent short punt by O'Malley set the Spartans up at the USC 34 yard. Line. After back-to-back completions from Kyle Reed to wide receiver Kevin Jurovich of 9 and 10 yards, including a gutsy pass on fourth and nine, Tyler Cope nailed his field goal of 41 yards, his first ever for the Spartans. The Trojans again gave the Spartans a gift on their next possession following the field goal when Tight End Anthony McCoy fumbled after a 22 yard reception. At the conclusion of the 1st quarter, the Spartans found themselves leading by a score of 3-0, and having held USC to only 2 first downs, The Spartans also led in time of possession, 8:32 to the the Trojans' 6:28.

Everything changed dramatically in the 2nd quarter. As planned, junior quarterback Jordan LaSecla entered the game in place of Kyle Reed. Reed was 5 for 8, and 44 yards, with one sack and one fumble in the first half. With LaSecla at the helm, the Spartans failed to gain a first down in the first possession, completing only one of two pass attempts for only seven yards. After taking possession at the Spartans 45 yard line, the Trojans began to open their offense up, mixing up the pass and run. Barkley completed passes of 11 and 10 yards; setting up a 4 yard touchdown run of four yards by Stafon Johnson, giving USC a 7-3 lead.

It appeared the Spartans were going to respond to the Trojans touchdown, when they gained 30 yards on six plays, with 24 of them being on the ground. However, that promising drive came to an abrupt end when Patrick Perry fumbled at the USC 42 yard line. That turnover seemed to take the fight out of the Spartans, as from that point on, the Trojans dominated.

Trojans' quarterback Matt Barkley reached his comfort level, and began to hit his receivers in space, allowing their athleticism to begin the shine. The Spartans' defense began to miss tackles, which greatly contributed to the Trojans 2nd quarter surge. USC scored touchdowns on their next three possessions, with runs of 2 yards by Stafon Johnson, 43 yards by Allen Bradford, and six yards by Joe McKnight. In the blink of an eye, the Spartans found themselves down 28-3 at the end of the first half. LaSecla was 4 of 9 in the 2nd quarter, for 43 yards, with his one highlight being a 29 yard pass completion to Kevin Jurovich for 29 yards to end the half.

In the 3rd quarter, the Trojans' offensive onslaught continued, as the USC ground attack kicked in high gear with Joe McKnights 54 yard touchdown run on the opening possession and Matt Barkley completing 7 of 8 passes, including six straight, for 106 yards and a touchdown on the next possession. With a 42-3 lead, USC Head Coach Pete Carroll appeared to call of the dogs a bit; content with short passes and straight up run plays to chew up time on the clock. The Spartans offense gained only one first down in the 3rd quarter, with Philip Zavala punting on all three of San Jose State's 3rd quarter possessions.

Matt Barkley was replaced in the 4th quarter by Aaron Corp, who drove the Trojans to two more touchdowns, including a 4th and goal pass from the 13 yard line with only 4:13 remaining in the game. Corp was 4 for 4, for 45 yards. Three Spartans quarterback saw action, Kyle Reed (9 for 17, 66 yards), Jordan LaSecla (5-10, 42 yards) and Myles Eden (1 for 2, 3 yards). Patrick Perry was the leading San Jose State rusher, with 48 yards on 14 carries. Kevin Jurovich led the Spartans in receiving with 5 catches, 64 yards. Safety Tanner Burns led the Spartans in tackles with 9 solo. Defensive ends Carl Ihenacho and Mohamed Marah each recorded a sack.

Check back later on InsideSparta for comments from players and coaches, and game photos.

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Mike Morgan is a Senior Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Mike with any questions, comments, or tips at mike@insidesparta.com

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