With one game regular season game remaining, Stanford is within reach of its best regular season record in 50 years. All that stands in Stanford's way is its one-time patsy, but recent nemesis: San Jose State. Once again, San Jose State has an inconsistent but dangerous team that could cause Stanford a lot of trouble. Here's a look at San Jose State's key statistics:
|Rushing offense||164.0 yards/game (51st of 115 teams in Div. 1A)|
|Yards per carry||4.4|
|Passing offense||276.8 yards/game (17th)|
|Yards per attempt||7.7|
|Pass efficiency rating||125.7 (50th)|
|Total offense||440.8 yards/game (18th)|
|Scoring offense||25.5 points/game (73rd)|
|3rd down conv. rate||42%|
|Rushing defense||202.5 yards/game (95th)|
|Opp. yards per carry||5.1|
|Passing defense||300.5 yards/game (114th)|
|Opp. yards per attempt||8.9|
|Opp. pass efficiency rating||151.9 (108th)|
|Total defense||503.1 yards/game (115th -- last in Div. 1A)|
|Scoring defense||38.2 points/game (109th)|
|Opp. 3rd down conv. rate||50%|
Turnover margin...............-9 (103rd)
San Jose State has some offensive explosiveness. The Spartans gained an incredible 746 yards against Tulsa. It might be tempting to write that off as a fluke -- except that SJS later gained an almost unfathomable 849 yards against Nevada. Those are mind-boggling numbers, regardless of the opponent. SJS also gained 514 yards against UTEP and 482 yards against a ranked Fresno State team. The Spartans must be one of the few teams in NCAA history to record a 400 yard rushing game and a 400 yard passing game in the same season. On the other hand, their defense is literally the worst in the nation.
So, a picture emerges of San Jose State: very good offense, horrible defense. In projecting the likely course of this Saturday's game, you might figure that San Jose State will probably move the ball reasonably well, gaining perhaps 400 yards, but that Stanford should have a huge offensive day, possibly going over 600 yards. So, that should add up to an easy Stanford win, right? How could Stanford lose a game like that?
Well, that's exactly what happened last year. Stanford gained 614 yards, the 8th highest total in school history, and had 28 first downs. Stanford easily outgained the Spartans' offense, which gained 483 yards and had 16 first downs. Yet Stanford lost by two touchdowns, 40-27, in a game that, as it unfolded, seemed like a bad dream -- the Nightmare on Galvez Street.
This year's versions of the two teams appear to be similar to the teams that were responsible for that nightmare. So it may be instructive to remember what happened last year. The Spartans' win had three key elements:
1. Big plays. San Jose State scored all of its touchdowns last year as a result of big plays. Deonce Whitaker had four long runs of 45, 65, 51, and 42 yards. One of them scored a TD, while the other three all went inside the Stanford 15 yard line and set up short TDs. Whitaker gained 203 yards just on those four runs. Stanford played decent defense against him the rest of the time, allowing him only 51 yards on his other 17 carries. But Whitaker's four big plays were too much for Stanford to overcome. San Jose State also scored a touchdown that was set up by a 37 yard pass completion, and a touchdown on a 63 yard interception return. That's six big plays, six TDs.
2. Turnovers. San Jose State committed only one turnover (which ended up being harmless), while Stanford committed three. One of Stanford's turnovers, the interception, was returned for a touchdown. Another Stanford turnover, a fumble in the open field, snuffed out a potential Stanford comeback in the 4th quarter.
3. Missed opportunities. Despite Stanford's huge day offensively (241 yards rushing, 373 yards passing), Stanford failed to take advantage of its scoring opportunities. Stanford had six different possessions in which it moved the ball inside the SJS 36 yard line but scored no points. Those six possessions ended with a missed field goal, two punts, a fumble, and two failed 4th down plays. Stanford wasted too many scoring opportunities.
Stanford must avoid a sequel to the Nightmare on Galvez Street. The defense must limit the Spartans' big plays. The offense must avoid turnovers and take advantage of its scoring opportunities. And the seniors must walk off the field as winners after their last regular season game.