Review of the Utah Game

It was the ninth-largest crowd to watch a college football game at Spartan Stadium and for three quarters San Jose State held even with the Utah Utes. However, the Spartans fell 24-14. Inside Sparta Football Editor Phil Paulsen analyzes the game.

In front of a disappointing announced crowd of 23,684 fairly quiet fans, the San Jose State Spartans came up short on their bid to pull their first upset over a ranked team since 2000, falling to the Utah Utes by the score of 24 - 14. The disappointing part of the crowd is twofold. First, the size of the crowd was nowhere near 23,000 gauged by this fans thirty years of attending games at Spartan Stadium. With the end-zones sparse and the east side with empty seats half of which filled with red clad Ute fans and a small sprinkling of fans in the upper deck, I would say there were more like 17,000 to 19,000 in the house. I'll comment on the attendance later.

The Spartans opened up the game with the defense on the field and it looked as if the Utes were going to go three and out and then third and long reared its ugly head. The Utes converted on a 30 yard run by Junior College transfer Terrance Cain. Eight plays later on a fourth and one play, Matt Asiata rushed into the north end zone for the first score of the game. Besides the 30 yard run on the drive, Cain also completed a 26-yard pass over the middle to a wide-open David Reed, which was also aided by a few missed tackles.

The Spartan offense, lead by Kyle Reed, followed the Ute touchdown by going three-and-out. The crowed appeared to sense another long night. However, the Spartan defense came through with the first of two fumble recoveries on the night right after giving up a another third and long and a 15 yard pass play on a second and ten for a total of 47 yards. Reed came out for the Spartan second offensive series and another three and out ensued after not being able to take advantage of the turnover. The Utes again took over and were moving the ball until Asiata fumbled and the Spartan bend dont break defense gave the ball back to the offense. Reed closed the first quarter with a 33-yard pass play to Kevin Jurovich. Little did we know that completion would be the last we would see of Reed for the game. Jordan La Secla took over at the beginning of the second quarter on the Utah 26 and led the team down for the tying score and the first touchdown of the season for the Spartans.

The score stayed tied at 7 until the fourth quarter when Utah scored twice making the score 21 7. The Spartans finally opened it up with 9:03 left in the game driving 77 yards on 9 plays for their second TD of the night. The problem was the drive took over four minutes not leaving much time if the defense could get the ball back. As it was, the Spartan defense could not make the stops that needed to be made on third down and the Utes added a field goal to close out the scoring with 12 ticks left on the clock. La Seclas final pass was intercepted and that was the ball game.

On the plus side for the Spartans, La Secla was given three quarters to get into the groove on offense and for the most part, his play should have earned him a start next week at the Farm against Stanford. Malley and company while still not fooling anybody did allow the team to open it up with some long sideline passes which worked almost every time. The quarterbacks are still telegraphing their throws but La Secla did seem to try to find a secondary receiver on a couple of occasions. There were a couple of drops from the receivers again but overall, I would give that unit a B+ / A-. I would give the offensive line a B on pass blocking but a C- on opening up the run game. I will not blame the lack of a run game completely on the offensive line for a couple of reasons, I dont think the blocking schemes that are being called are a good fit and with the lack of the mid range and long throws, throws to the tight end and breaking out a running back over the middle, the linebackers are playing up in the box as well as the safeties. For that matter, the corners are able cheat up as well leaving even less room to run the ball.

On the negative side, the aforementioned running game gained a grand total of 22 yards on 22 carries for a 1-yard average that will need to improve. The offense is still not very intricate, there is still little called over the middle to keep the defense honest, few slants or crosses, little to the tight end or delays to the running backs. One of Utahs biggest plays was on a short slant over the middle that turned into a 50-plus yard touchdown. The offense also needs to get better on third down efficiency converting three of 12 will not win many ball games.

I would give the defense an overall grade of C- for limiting the Utes to 24 total points and forcing two more fumbles and recovering them. My reasoning on the grade is due more in part to the Utes self-destructing by loosing the ball a couple of times and missing some field goals. Utah, for the most part, moved the ball at will between the 20s. The coverage from the defensive backs have been less then spectacular and there is not much pressure on the opposing quarterbacks without sending an extra man or two leaving open areas on the field to exploit. The third down defense needs to be shored up just for the same reason the offense needs to make more third down conversions, to get and keep the defense off the field and for the second week in a row, the open field tackling was poor. When the team is home, the fans can help on third down by getting on their feet and making some real noise. It would also help if we were loud on first and second down as well.

Two of the toughest games are behind the team now so if the Spartans can continue to improve over the next several games as I think they did between the last two games, there is still a good possibility that a .500 or better season could be in the cards.

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Phil Paulsen is the Football Editor of Inside Sparta. You may contact Phil with any questions, comments, or tips at phil@insidesparta.com

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