It was a perfect night for football, as both teams were trying to out shout each other in pregame drills. With Jay-Z bumping throughout the stadium, you knew this game was going to get hype. The San Jose Spartans were expected to win their eight consecutive game against their FCS competition, Sacramento State. However, the Spartans are now led by new head coach Ron Caragher who has brought in a whole new staff and philosophy to San Jose. For the first time in recent memory, the Spartans are led by a bonafide superstar and potential first round pick quarterback David Fales. How Fales will adjust to the tough competition in the Mountain West Conference will affect his draft status in April.
The Spartans started their season in typical fashion by throwing the ball 2 out of 3 times, unfortunately they only gained a few yards until they were forced to punt. Sophomore cornerback Jimmy Pruitt made a touchdown saving pass break up and the very next play Bene Benwikere got his 10th career interception that went for 11 yards. Unfortunately after a big dropped ball in the end zone, the Spartans only capitalized with a field goal. It was a sloppy first quarter for the Spartans offense as they struggled to hold onto the ball. Fales looked like a far cry from the Heisman candidate we all thought he would be as he finished the first quarter 5-13 for 47 yards and a 68.8 quarterback rating.
As bad as the Spartans offense played in the first quarter, the new look hybrid defense looked spectacular. Outside linebacker Eugene Taylor looked like Lawrence Taylor out there against Sacramento State. Sean Linton looked like a wide receiver when he grabbed an interception in the third quarter. Just like that, Fales transformed into the quarterback we all that he was as he threw a 46 yard bomb to Chandler Jones. A couple of plays later he threw a 31 yard strike to Jones again to put the Spartans up by 10. A few plays after turning an interception into a reception, Fales rewarded Grigsby with a big 15 yard touchdown pass. After a horrific first quarter, Fales finished the half with 174 yards and 2 touchdowns including 7 passes for 123 yards to Chandler Jones.
Defensive Coordinator Kenwick Thompson looks like he has his young Spartans defense bought into his hybrid defense as they shut out Sacramento State. Outside linebackers Sean Bacon and Eugene Taylor are key to making sure that they contain the quarterback, drop back in coverage, and rush the quarterback throughout the game. Inside Linebacker Keith Smith once again looks like he will get over 100 tackles this year as he seemed to be everywhere the ball was tonight. Thompson’s defense can afford to be aggressive because they have three defensive stalwarts at cornerback.
The real test comes next week for the Spartans as they face south bay rival, Stanford Cardinal. It will be interesting to see how Thompson’s hybrid defense stacks up against the power running of the Cardinal. If Fales and company don’t sharpen up on offense, they will be facing a long 60 minutes at Stanford Stadium.