The San Jose State football team, a heavy underdog, handed the University of Southern California a surprising first quarter loss to open their 2009 football season. The victory came at Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum, in front of 84,000-plus fans.
San Jose relied on a determined defense, and the foot of newly arrived kicker Tyler Cope, to earn the victory. The quarter, characterized by turnovers, was a tough defensive struggle before the Spartans escaped with a narrow 3 – 0 victory over the fourth-ranked Trojans.
The Spartans received the opening kick-off, but managed to gain only seven yards before having to punt the ball to the Trojans. Taking over at their own 29-yard line, USC running back Joe McKnight bulled ahead to the 49 and a first down before being tackled.
But the Spartan defense stiffened, pushing the Trojans back two yards, forcing them to kick the ball away from their own 47 on a fourth-down-and-six.
Taking the ball at its own 12-yard line, the Spartans began their next drive. Running back Patrick Perry, returning from a serious knee injury that had kept him sidelined for two years, picked up 25 yards on a first down rush, taking the Spartans to their own 37, buying much-needed breathing room. After calling their first time-out (probably in a classy display of good sportsmanship to give the beleaguered Trojan defense a chance to rest), Spartan quarterback Kyle Reed lost five yards, and fumbled the ball back to the Trojans. It was a golden opportunity for the Men of Troy, as they took over at the San Jose State 32-yard line.
But the big-play Spartan defense then forced a USC fumble, which was recovered by SJSU All-Conference defensive end, Carl Ihenacho, at the San Jose State 28-yard line.
On first down, Spartan receiver Josh Harrison took the ball on an end-around for a gain of 10 yards and a first down at the Spartan 38. Perry then ran for two more, getting to the Spartan 40 before another quarterback sack and incomplete pass forced the Spartans to punt.
But the punt traveled 42 yards, backing USC up to its own 11-yard line, and a first-down penalty pushed them back again, to their six. USC ran the ball on its next two plays, pushing out to their 16-yard line, before the Spartan "Code Blue" defense sacked Trojan QB Matt Barkley -- the first true freshman ever to start for the Trojans – at his own 10-yard line. Again, the Trojans were forced to punt.
The punt was a poor one, and San Jose took over at the Trojan 34-yard line. From there, the Trojan defense, aided by a five-yard penalty against San Jose State, pushed the Spartans back to the 42-yard line. Then, on third down, Reed hit wide receiver Kevin Jurovich for a nine-yard gain to the Trojan 33. With the outcome in the balance, San Jose went on fourth-and-nine, and converted the critical play when Reed again hit Jurovich for a 10-yard gain, to the Trojan 23.
Sensing certain defeat, the Trojan defense stiffened, holding San Jose on its next three plays. With the contest on the line, newly arrived Spartan place kicker Tyler Cope went in and nailed a 41-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 3 – 0 lead. But it was far from over.
The Trojans took the ensuing kick-off to the 38-yard line, where, on first-and-ten, Barkley hit USC receiver Anthony Mc Coy for a 22-yard gain. But Mc Coy fumbled before he was down, and the Spartans recovered at their own 40-yard line.
In a surprise move, Spartan Head Coach Dick Tomey then sent in junior quarterback Jordan La Secla to seal the win. But, undoubtedly sensing the urgency of their situation, the Trojan defense held San Jose to a three-and-out, taking the Spartan punt at their own 27-yard line.
From there it was the SJSU defense which shined, holding the Trojans at their own 48-yard line, forcing USC to punt. The kick left San Jose backed up to its own seven-yard line, but Patrick Perry running the ball for a yard as time ran out, sealed the win. And, just like that, the upstart San Jose State Spartans won the first quarter, three to nothing.
It was the first time this season that the Trojans had been held scoreless for a quarter.
The next three quarters? As one of my clients said just after being sentenced to a long time out, "Ahh, just forget about it."
Okay, so this is a bit tongue-in-cheek. But as I wrote last Friday, the 2009 Spartan campaign will be defined not by wins and losses, but by whether Spartan fans can remain faithful no matter what the season brings. So, why not emphasize the positive and ignore the rest? Leave it to L.A. papers, national sports writers, and T.V. commentators to glorify a fine USC Trojan team. Despite the eventual 56 - 3 loss, nobody will ever be able to take away a splendid quarter of Spartan football.
San Jose gets its next chance this Saturday, as Utah visits Spartan Stadium. The best thing fans can do is get out to the game, strap on their helmets, and support the team. It's a little too early to start with the negativity. And you never know, in the upcoming game, San Jose may just beat the Utes – twice!Follow Inside Sparta on Twitter and Facebook
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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 email@example.com
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