As if playing a game across the country is not hard enough, San Jose State University will be taking on last year’s runner up for the national title, the 5th ranked Auburn Tigers. Both teams are coming off wins in their first game of the season, the Tigers defeated SEC West foe Arkansas while the Spartans took down the University of North Dakota.
#10 David Fales (former QB) and #14 Blake Jurich (current QB) at the Military Bowl circa 2012.
In the Spartans season opener they seemed to answer many of the questions that were floating around the team since spring practices. The biggest of which was who would replace David Fales, last season’s starting quarterback, now in the NFL. Head coach Caragher waited till nearly the last moment before anointing the fifth year senior Black Jurich as the starter. Jurich did not disappoint. Against UND Jurich was 2225 for 250 yards with three passing touchdowns and one on the ground. Most of his passes were short screens or quick hitters to his dynamic receivers, there were a few throws that were not on target but the athleticism and instinct of the Spartan receivers (especially Tyler Winston) bailed out Jurich.
The other major question hanging around the Spartans would be could they improve upon last season’s anemic defense. The secondary was the lone bright spot last year, but against the run the whole defense struggled. Looking to change things up, SJSU scored a major hire by bringing on board new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. Robinson came with an impressive resume, he has two super bowl rings coaching the defense of the Denver Broncos from 19952000. Last year he also turned around The University of Texas defense midway through the season, leading them from a laughingstock to quality and respectability.
With Robinson and switch back to a 43 defensive front, the Spartans looked greatly improved, however they’ll be tested early and often by Auburn’s fantastic offense lead by creative head coach Gus Malzahn. Auburn easily handled Arkansas in their opener last week, even without star quarterback Nick Marshall for the first half the Tigers did not skip a beat. Possibly and arguably more impressive was the job done by the Tiger defense. After giving up 21 first half points, Auburn didn’t allow Arkansas a single point in the second half.
Clearly this will be a major test for the Spartans as they are playing their most difficult game of the season. Similarly to last season they went on the road to face the 5th ranked team in the nation. Losing at Stanford 3413, while many are predicting a similar score, Spartan players are more than “just happy to be here,” they would like to shock the world at JordanHare Stadium.
Players to note
- ● Tyler Winston The 62 WR is taller than all of Auburn’s DBs, he is also on a streak with three straight games with 10 receptions or more.
- ● Billy Freeman The dynamic TE is looking to improve upon his breakout season as a freshman. An injury slowed him down over the summer, but his play can make a major impact.
- ● Forrest Hightower The senior FS played strong coverage and had many open field tackles against UND last week. If he can duplicate his performance that will surely inspire his teammates.
- ● Christian Tago The LB lead the team in tackles last week, and had a pass break up to boot! His energy will be key against the stout Auburn linemen.
- ● Cleveland Wallace III A transfer from the University of Washington made an immediate impact at DB, with an interception against UND. He will have a busy day against a potent Auburn air attack.
- ● Tyler Ervin With a 40 yrd punt return, and another punt return for a TD, if he can break one off again, that would buoy the Spartans chances of victory.
- ● Austin Lopez Solving a major problem for the Spartans at PK, the junior can make long field goals, which will be key to keep the Spartans in the game. He did miss his lone attempt last week.
● Spartans Oline versus Tigers Dline The Spartans have a young offensive line, with three new starters. Playing in a hostile environment against a powerful and fast Tigers front four, if the Spartans can’t hold their own it will be over early.