Posts tagged San Jose State
BYU is a difficult team to read right now. They’ve got the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shtick going pretty well just in time for Halloween. Bronco Mendenhall went from talking about this team being “really special” and “better than he expected” back in August to “every game will be a close and hard-fought” from now on.
Two losses in your first five games, including an embarrassing butt kicking by your archrival will do that to you.
Now throw a quarterback controversy back into the mix. That chapter was supposed to be in the past for the Cougars. Done. Gone with last year’s rebuilding effort. But wait – all of the sudden this season looks like it’s another rebuilding one.
Utah State had BYU on the ropes last week and failed to deliver the knockout blow.
Credit Brandon Doman for making a QB switch and Riley Nelson for coming in and pulling off what every great BYU quarterback has done before him. He gutted out a clutch win in the final moments of a game that looked like it was lost. It wasn’t pretty, but people forget that Steve Young didn’t look exactly smooth flinging the ball his first few games, either.
It was apparent to everyone that saw the USU game that the team was visibly more aggressive and positive once Nelson took over for Heaps. Receivers started hustling more to the ball and making the tough catch. The defense regained their mojo and remembered how to tackle.
The players felt it. Senior McKay Jacobson said, “You could tell that all of us were playing with a little bit more heart out there.”
The looming question heading into this week’s game is do you mess with that jolt of energy and fighter instinct vibe that Nelson brought to the team in last week’s comeback win, or do you put him back on the bench and use him as your relief QB? Or do you really mess with both both your QBs heads and let them split time like the beginning of 2010 all over again?
Enter the Spartans.
You would’ve been hard pressed to find anyone willing to give San Jose State a chance in Provo at the beginning of the season. It was considered to be one of the sure wins that BYU could count on after facing four tough teams in the first month of your schedule.
Now apprehension fills the air.
The Spartans have been playing competitive football since suffering an opening season blowout loss to Stanford. They went to Fort Collins and knocked off Colorado State in overtime. That’s something Utah State couldn’t do on their home turf against the Rams. So, SJSU is riding a little wave of confidence as they come to Provo.
It doesn’t hurt that they have a solid kid calling signals for them. Senior Matt Faulkner of Texas was in the Fresno State program before transferring to San Jose. In four games this season, he’s completed better than 60 percent of his passes, averaging 216 yards in the air per game. He has a really speedy receiver in Noel Grigsby (28 receptions in 4 games) and a dependable target in 6’5, 230 tight end Ryan Otten (15 grabs, 3 TDs, 17.6 yards per catch).
Senior running back Brandon Rutley is solid and shifty, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and he’s hit paydirt six times this season. He rushed for 130 yards against CSU last week and 209 the week before in a win over New Mexico State, but hurt his ankle against the Rams and is listed as questionable for the game. One of his top blockers, guard Fred Koloto is also nursing a hurt knee and is considered questionable on the injury report as well.
Defensively, the Spartans look porous. They’ve given up an average of 408 yards per game and 31.2 points. Their defense against the run is better than their pass defense, but this is a team that believes they have a chance against the Cougars and they’ve tasted what it feels like to win a couple games in a row.
This isn’t a game where you can say BYU is going to win, hands down. It comes down to which team shows up on Saturday night.
Will we see the mistake prone, tentative effort BYU offered for nearly three full quarters against Utah State last week or the one that played with fire under Riley’s leadership for the final 20 minutes?
San Jose can put the points on the board, but I don’t expect the Spartan offensive unit will be at full strength by Saturday night. Look for a renewed team spirit behind Nelson’s leadership and the Cougars to finally put together a fairly solid win.
Prediction: BYU 34 San Jose State 14
Last week it was a tale of two offenses. This week it was a tale of two halves. That’s the same tale that we had been learning to swallow in the first four games. No wonder BYU is ranked lower than they ever have been in nearly all of the key team statistics since before the Lavell Edwards era.
Offense Grade, First Half: B+
Offense Grade, Second Half: F
The Cougars’ piled up most of their stats in the first half on the way to 443 total yards in a very balanced attack (224 yards rushing, 219 passing). Riley Nelson pulled off a disappearing act in the second half that was won by San Jose State, 10-6. He ended up with 3 touchdown passes but two picks, 65 yards rushing, but coughed up a fumble on the Spartan’s 3-yard line.
Aside from Nelson’s abysmal second half performance, Michael Alisa looked decent with 91 yards on 16 carries (5.7 avg). So did Josh Quezada (9 attempts, 47 yards, 5.2 avg).
Richard Wilson (3 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD) and McKay Jacobson (2 grabs, 63 yards, 1 TD) helped Nelson out.
Defense Grade: B
Holding the Spartan offense to 16 points is not a huge feat, considering that their star running back and his pulling guard were both out of the lineup in Provo. Nevertheless, the defense thwarted San Jose State when they had to with two picks and a 50 percent average in third down conversion attempts. Kyle Van Noy continues to play the mad beast on the field for BYU.
Special Teams Grade: B+
Justin Sorenson was perfect banging in two field goals and 3 extra points. Cody Hoffman maintained a 24.3 kickoff return average. J.D. Falslev still inspires one to hold their breath when he’s returning punts or kicks. Riley Stephenson didn’t have to punt all night.
Team Grade: C+
This is a game that BYU should have won by at least a three-touchdown margin. Riley Nelson and the offense looked pathetic in the second half.