San Jose State Head Coach Dick Tomey spent a good portion of his press conference on Monday, Sept. 21 discussing the running game. He spoke of not only his own team's running game, and their struggles in that regard, but also of the challenge awaiting San Jose State this Saturday at Spartan Stadium in trying to defend against the wishbone attack employed by their opponents, the Mustangs of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
The San Jose State rushing attack has been nearly non-existent thus far in 2009. In the first three games, the Spartans are only averaging 18.3 yards per game and have been outrushed by their opponents by an embarrassing margin of 804 yards to only 55 for the Spartans. The average gain per rush attempt is a paltry 0.7 yards, compared with a 6.4 yard average for their opponents. Tomey is not dismayed by his team's futility on the ground. "You have to be persistent," Tomey said. "You need to stick with it when it isn't going well, and I think you can get it going." As Tomey pointed out, the Spartans had trouble being persistent and sticking with the run in last week's game against Stanford, due in large part to their being behind 14-0 early on. "It gets harder to be persistent when you're down by a couple of touchdowns," Tomey said. "Sometimes, your running game develops in the second half, the second quarter, or whatever, and so, you just need to be persistent about it." Tomey cited Fresno State rushing for over 300 yards against Boise State last Friday night as an example of persistence. "Fresno didn't make a first down for like twenty minutes into the game, and they were making nothing running it. But they stuck with it. You need to stick with it, when it isn't going well, and I think you can get it going," Tomey went on to say. "We certainly want to be a better running team. I've been saying that for a long time. We were a bad running team last year, and we want to be a better running team. With the people we have we should be. By the time this season is over, we should look back and say we really improved as a running football team. We can't be one dimensional and expect to get everything we want out of this season."
Tomey expects to see Lamon Muldrow carry the ball for the Spartans more often this weekend. The reason is partly due to the ankle injury of Brandon Rutley, but also due to Muldrow's late game performance against Stanford last Saturday. Coming off the bench, Muldrow rushed for a team high 35 yards in only five carries, and scored on a 14-yard touchdown run. Another factor in Muldrow receiving more playing time is fellow running back Patrick Perry having fumbled twice over the first three games. In both cases, the fumbles were momentum killers. "We are not going to play (running) backs that fumble" said Tomey. "You have to establish from the start that if backs fumble they compromise their chances of playing. I believe in Pat Perry. I think he's a great player. But, we want to send a message to the guys that if you fumble the football, if you fumble it more than once, and you fumble it repeatedly, that's going to cut into your playing time. We want that to be clear."
Tomey sees the task of stopping Cal Poly's wishbone attack as a great challenge for his defense. "I think the biggest thing when you play this style of football is you need to be disciplined" said Tomey. "It's very difficult to defend against, because it requires different reactions on the part of your people. You've got to get those in a week, and that's what's tough about it." Tomey indicated that the success of his defense relies heavily on the ability of the San Jose State scout team to simulate Cal Poly's offense. The scout unit actually began working on the wishbone last Friday, before the Stanford game. "The biggest thing is we need a great scout look for our defense," said Tomey. "They did a great job last night. I hope they do a nice job all through the week." Tomey does have experience in defending against the wishbone attack, having faced it several times when coaching against Air Force during his time at Hawai'i.
Tomey is optimistic that the problems experienced on kick coverage against Stanford will be fixed. With the exception of Richard Sherman's punt return for a touchdown, Tomey was pleased with the punt coverage. As for the kickoff coverage, which he called the most disappointing aspect of the loss to Stanford, Tomey is hopeful that the problems will be fixed, similar to last season. "The emphasis on the kicking game is to clean-up the mistakes, and to focus on being a great kicking team as we were at the end of last season," Tomey said. "If you recall, we had Nebraska who returned a kick-off for a touchdown against us in the fourth quarter. After that we became a very good cover team. I hope we can do that as well."
Tomey is also not dismayed by his team's 0-3 start. "I've been through this. I've been 0-3-1 to start a season and we won seven in a row. And every one of them was a knock down, drag out game against tough teams," Tomey said. "If you hate losing bad enough, you'll stop it. That's the way it is. If you hate your circumstances bad enough you'll do something about it. That's what real competitors do. So, hopefully, that's what the Spartans will do."
Defensive end Mohamed Marah will have season ending surgery on Saturday to repair a torn labrum. Marah will redshirt the rest of this season and will return in 2010.
Kicker Tyler Cope suffered a concussion during the opening kickoff of the Stanford game. Despite his injury he went on to kick a 30-yard field goal and was successful on both his PAT's that night. He is expected to play against Cal Poly.
Linebacker Ryno Gonzalez will likely be bothered by his foot injury all season. He was kept out of the Utah game, but Tomey praised his efforts against Stanford. "He probably made the most physical plays in the game against (Toby) Gerhart. He's more physically strong than most of our other linebackers. So, he made some real strong tackles against Gerhart."
No change at quarterback for the Spartans. Jordan La Secla is expected to start, with no set plan to play Kyle Reed.
Coaches will be wearing patches on Saturday to highlight the partnership between the American Football Coaches Association and the Coach To Cure MD (Muscular Dystrophy) program, which raised over $270,000 dollars last year.
There will be a major announcement on Tuesday morning regarding a current San Jose State player. The announcement is reportedly a positive one, and will be released nationally. Look for an update here on Inside Sparta.
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Tomey Emphasizes Need To Be Persistent
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