During his weekly press conference at the Simpkins Stadium Center on Monday, September 14th, San Jose State Head Coach Dick Tomey had mixed feelings regarding the Spartans' 24-14 loss on Saturday to then No. 17 ranked Utah. He expressed disappointment that the team was unable to pull off a win, but was pleased with how the team responded coming off the 56-3 drubbing at the hands of USC a week earlier. "We were much better than we were the week before. We competed much harder. I think we did much better" said Tomey. "We threw the ball well last week against Utah. We moved the ball reasonably well against them; certainly much better than the week before. Better than we had, maybe going back to last season. I think we'll just continue to just get better and better."
Tomey stressed the need to improve offensively in the running game. "Primarily, you've got to block people consistently. The one thing I think is true is if you evaluated your running game on what you do against USC and Utah, there's not many teams that would have a good running game, because they were two of the top five teams in the nation last year against the run." On the positive side, Tomey specifically pointed out running plays that Coach Terry Malley called on both of the Spartans touchdown drives. "(During) our touchdown drive in the second quarter, we had three runs that set-up the touchdown. We had a run that set-up the touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tomey went on to say "I thought Coach Malley made a great call on third and four, when we're going in to score the first time. On third and four we stuck a run in there and we made five yards. And that was a great call. We could say ok, we're not moving the ball so we can't run it. But, he stuck it in there, and we made a first down. We got the ball at the six yard line and we made two straight runs, and we got the ball in the end zone. I think that was unpredictable. But, we have to be able to run the ball when people think we're going run it anyway. So, we're not there yet."
Although the Spartans' defense slowed down Utah running back Matt Asiata, keeping him under 100 yards for the game, Tomey said that the defense needs to learn to finish games stronger. "When we needed to close the door on (Utah) at the end of the game, when it became 21-14, we didn't do it. If you're a great defense you've got to do that in the fourth quarter."
Looking ahead to this weekend's game against Stanford, and coming on the heels of junior quarterback Jordan La Secla's performance against Utah (completing 22 of 34 passes for 269 yards, and one touchdown), Tomey confirmed that La Secla will start against the Cardinal "He did a nice job of avoiding the rush" said Tomey. "He got hit real hard a bunch of times, although he only got sacked once. I thought for a guy that's only played one football game in its entirety, I thought he did a terrific job." Tomey is not ready to proclaim that La Secla has won the starting job from incumbent Kyle Reed. "The only thing we're suggesting right now is that Jordan is going to be our starter this week" said Tomey. The biggest shift in the coaching staff's approach regarding the quarterback competition between La Secla and Reed is they are not planning on playing both quarterbacks equally against Stanford. Asked if Reed would play against Stanford, Tomey replied "Not necessarily. We're just going to see what happens. Right now Jordan's going to start, Kyle will be his primary back-up. Kyle may play early on. We don't know. It will depend on the circumstances."
Tomey praised both the Stanford players, and their head coach Jim Harbaugh. "Stanford is a huge challenge. They are a team that's very physical. (Toby) Gerhart is a great running back. He had the best year last year that any running back has ever had at Stanford. Their new quarterback, Andrew Luck, I think is very talented. He seems very smart. He can throw it. He's a terrific runner as well. I think this is the best Stanford team that we've played. I believe it's the most capable group we've played." Regarding Harbaugh, Tomey said "I have great respect for (him). As I've often said, Jim and I don't know each other well, but we share one thing in common; I'm a Bo Schembechler guy and so is he. So that makes me feel good about him."
Tomey indicated that stopping Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart will be a key focus for the Spartans. "I think (Stanford is) going to try and get him going against us. He's played against us three years and had a lot of success. Nobody stopped Gerhart last year very well. Not USC. I think everyone that plays them is going to have to have that as their number one priority."
Defensive tackle Mohamed Marah, who suffered a labrum tear to his shoulder in the USC game, may require season ending surgery. "That hasn't been decided yet" said Tomey. "He's going to try and get a second opinion. That's the kind of injury that requires surgery in most cases. But, we'll just have to wait and see." Marah does have a redshirt year available. If he does have the surgery, he would be eligible to play next season.
Linebacker Ryno Gonzales re-injured his foot and did not play against Utah. "He's not completely healed" said Tomey. "He's trying to get back so he can play, and we're just taking it one game at a time."
Neither running backs Brandon Rutley nor Patrick Perry, who both suffered injuries in the Utah game, have been ruled out for this week's game against Stanford.
The Spartans coaching staff had planned on redshirting true freshman defensive safety James Orth from Central Catholic (Modesto, Calif). However, he got his first game action on special teams against Utah. The 6-foot-2, 190 lbs Orth changed the coaches' minds with his hitting in practice. "He did a great job a week ago in our Sunday scrimmage" said Tomey. "You could hear the tackles he made. He's a big guy. He looked like in high school that he could really hit you. We decided we needed another guy in our secondary that will really come up and hit you. We've decided we're going to use him."
Things are getting crowded on the San Jose State sideline. First, Offensive Coordinator Terry Malley chose to call the games from the sidelines, rather than the box upstairs. Now he's been joined by Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer. Tomey said that was done in order to get more eyes on the field, and better communication between the coaches and players. "Coach Malley's on the field. Coach Morton's on the field" said Tomey. "We've got more coaches on the field than we do in the press box. I think the guys on the field can affect the outcome of the game."
Tomey would prefer that the Stanford series have more games played in Spartan Stadium, at least every third or fourth game. "We would prefer that Stanford would choose to come here. I think that's the part that bothers me. Because I think that would be reasonable. I like playing Stanford" said Tomey. "We need a win. Stanford needs a win. That makes for a good game."
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