Heading into Saturday night's game in Palo Alto against the Stanford Cardinal, San Jose State Head Coach Dick Tomey made it clear that slowing down Stanford running back Toby Gerhart would be a key factor in his team's chances of coming home with an upset victory. Likewise, throughout the evening, Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh fed San Jose State a hefty portion of Gerhart, who led the Cardinal to a 42-17 victory over the Spartans, rushing for 113 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns before an announced crowd of 33,560. It was the 11th time in his career that Gerhart has run for over 100 yards in a game.
The game marked the sixth consecutive loss for San Jose State, dating back to last season, and dropped their 2009 record to 0-3. Stanford improved it's season record to 2-1.
For San Jose State, their struggles running the football continued. Without the services of running back Brandon Rutley, who was sidelined with an ankle injury suffered in last week's loss to Utah, and a banged up Patrick Perry, the Spartans managed to run for only 24 yards on 28 carries, with four Spartan players rushing for negative yardage. The leading rusher for the Spartans was Lamon Muldrow, coming off the bench to run for 35 yards on five carries and a fourth quarter 14 yard touchdown.
It only took 10 seconds for Stanford to get on the scoreboard, as kick returner Chris Owusu returned the opening kick-off 89 yards for a touchdown. Stanford would later go on to score touchdowns via a 23 yard interception return by cornerback Corey Gatewood, and a 48 yard punt return by cornerback Richard Sherman. The punt return by Sherman was the first by a Stanford player in the new Stanford Stadium, and the first since 2003.
San Jose State failed to answer the Cardinal's opening touchdown on their initial possession; going three and out and only gaining one yard. Despite not moving the ball, a 60 yard punt by the Spartans' punter, Philip Zavala, pushed Stanford back to their own 22 yard line. Stanford, effectively mixing up the run and pass, and with their offensive line getting a great push, drove the ball 78 yards in 11 plays, with Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart capping the drive with a three yard touchdown run, extending their early lead to 14-0.
On San Jose State's second possession, the Spartans were again faced with another three and out. However, Head Coach Dick Tomey called for a fake punt in Stanford territory. Punter Philip Zavala threw to Tanner Burns for a first down on the fourth and one play. The Spartans wasted the effort on the next play, when running back Patrick Perry fumbled at the Spartans' 36 yard line. Fortunately for San Jose State, Stanford failed to capitalize on the turnover, after being penalized for holding, and missing a 50 yard field goal attempt against the wind.
Following the missed field goal, the Spartans tried a little more trickery on their next possession, with a double reverse to wide receiver Kevin Jurovich on a play designed for Jurovich to pass. Hoewver, Jurovich, feeling pressure from the Stanford defense, failed to throw it to wide open tight end Ryan Otten. Instead of throwing a sure touchdown to Otten, a scrambling Jurovich was tackled for a 16 yard loss. Faced with a fourth and long from their own 25 yard line, the Spartans were forced to punt. Unlike his first kick, Zavala's second went off the side of his foot and only traveled 16 yards.
Stanford again failed to take advantage of the excellent field position handed to them by San Jose State, as an Andrew Luck's pass was intercepted by Spartans' sophomore cornerback Peyton Thompson at the San Jose State three yard line and returned 27 yards. The Spartans finally got on the scoreboard following the turnover. In a 70 yard, 15 play drive that was aided by a pass interference call against Stanford safety Bo McNally and an 18 yard La Secla completion to wide receiver Jalal Beauchman, the Spartans drove to the Cardinal one yard line, where La Secla again connected with Beauchman for the touchdown.
It was at that point that Coach Jim Harbaugh put the game into the hands of his workhorse Gerhart, who began to chew up huge chunks of yardage thanks to his offensive line that was blowing open holes in the Spartans' defense. On several runs, Gerhart dragged Spartans along with him. The Stanford drive ended with a one yard Gerhart touchdown run, and a 21-7 lead that Stanford would never look back from.
Early in the third quarter, Stanford extended it's lead to 28-7 when a tipped Jordan La Secla pass was intercepted by Cory Gatewood on a first and ten play from the San Jose State 23 yard line and returned for a score.
With the success Stanford had running the ball, rushing for 211 yards on 40 carries, freshman quarterback Andrew Luck utilized play action pass, and completed an efficient nine of 12 passes, and 170 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His only touchdown pass came near the end of the third quarter on a 22 yard strike to Chris Owusu in the end zone.
A 48 yard punt for a touchdown return by Standord's Richard Sherman, ended the scoring for the Cardinal and capped what Tomey called "a total collapse in the kicking game" by his Spartans.
As was the case in last week's game against Utah, San Jose State quarterback Jordan La Secla had moments in the game when he looked sharp, often completing passes on the run, and connecting with his second or third receiver choices. However, without any semblance of a running game, and playing the entire game from behind, La Secla was sacked five times as the Stanford defense began to tee-off as the game wore on. For the night La Secla completed 17 of 30 passes, for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The leading receiver for the Spartans was Kevin Jurovich, who caught nine passes for 103 yards.
Kyle Reed relieved La Secla at quarterback in the fourth quarter and completed 5 of 8 passes for 38 yards.
The San Jose State offense was three for three in their possessions in the Stanford redzone; scoring two touchdowns and a field goal.
Field goal kicker Tyler Cope was 2 for 2 in PAT attempts and was successful on his only field goal attempt, a 30 yarder in the fourth quarter.
In his post game interview with the media, Coach Tomey stated "I insist that we will be a good football team before the end of the season. I can't prove it right now. People think I'm crazy for saying it. But I believe in these guys."
No San Jose State team that started a season with an 0-3 win-loss record has ever finished the season with a winning record.
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