San Diego State and San Jose State have met 44 times on the soccer field in the series’ 85-year history.
Archivists taking a deep dive for the last time SDSU (2-0) and the Spartans (2-0) came unbeaten and unbound in a game that could have saved the trouble.
The next call was in 1941 when the Aztecs were 2-0 and the Spartans 2-0-1.
This game means a lot to the winner, a flawless record on the mountain west with the undefeated Nevada (3-0), who beat the state of Utah on Thursday evening.
No 21 Boise State (2-0) is also unbeaten despite the Broncos playing a non-conference game against No 9 BYU on Friday night this week.
The focus of the eight-game season is only a week away, so every game from now on has a special sense of urgency. The two best teams in the mountain west, which this season will be played as a single division with 12 teams, will play for the conference championship on December 19th.
SDSU, a 9 1/2 point favorite in the game, is 22-19-2 in the all-time series against San Jose State. This includes a current seven-game winning streak.
Here are five things to keep in mind in the game:
1. The current game from SDSU
The Aztecs lead the nation with 347 rushing yards per game. You gain seven meters per carry.
If the state of San Jose can’t figure out how to slow down the ongoing game of SDSU, the Spartans don’t stand a great chance in this game. The Aztecs play and keep away with the ball.
SDSU is almost unbeatable if you race at least 200 meters in a game and reach 46-2 in the last 48 games when you reach that frenzied plateau.
It is more complicated for the Spartans that the point is not to stop a man. Senior Greg Bell (41 porters, 268 yards, 2 TDs) leads, but Juniors Chance Bell (17-138, 3 TDs), Jordan Byrd (4-113, TD) and Kaegun Williams (17-112) also had their moments for SDSU.
“They’re playing the ball at an extremely high level,” said San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan, comparing it to the team’s rapid dominance over the past decade. “It really looks the same.”
2. San Jose State passing game
This is the first real test for San Jose quarterback Nick Starkel, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M via Arkansas that lit him up with 467 yards and five touchdowns against New Mexico last week.
You can imagine New New Mexico defensive coordinator Rocky Long being a little salty after that.
The Lobos were likely ill-equipped to compete. However, they tried to learn Long’s 3-3-5 defense without proper training. Their first game of the season was canceled and the game in San Jose state was moved from home to the streets. Oh, and recent restrictions in New Mexico have banned the team from training in groups of more than five people.
A week earlier, San Jose State faced an Air Force team whose ranks were depleted by dozens of players playing redshirting after the original season postponement.
While the state of San Jose ranks fifth in the nation at 353.5 years per game, it will be interesting to see if Starkel can achieve similar successes against an SDSU defense that leads the nation in goal defense (6.5 ppg) .
It’s a push forward defensive unit and has a veteran secondary challenged by Spartan receivers Bailey Gaither (18 catches, 318 yards, TD) and Tre Walker (13 catches, 145 yards, 2 TDs) among others becomes.
“He throws the deep ball very well and has some receivers who can go out there and get the ball where he throws it,” SDSU junior cornerback Darren Hall said of Starkel. “It’s just a challenge for the recipients and some pressure on his face to change their schedule.”
3. The narrow ends of SDSU
Perhaps in the improved play of SDSU’s offensive line this season, the contribution of the tight-end group, especially junior Daniel Bellinger and senior graduate transfer Nolan Givan, has been lost.
In fact, it was Bellinger and Givan’s blocks on the right side of the line last week in Utah that provided the light of day for Jordan Byrd’s 73-yard touchdown that set the exclamation mark for the 38-7 win.
The presence and ability of the narrow ends explains, at least in part, the SDSU’s convenience in removing the full-back from the formations.
While the tight ends weren’t too targeted in the first two weeks, their time will come.
In a way, it’s already there. Beyond the block.
Bellinger only had two catches against the state of Utah last week, but one of those was a 16-yard catch in the middle that turned a third-and-10.
A hold and a sack followed and was perhaps the biggest game of the game, allowing SDSU to continue a drive that expanded their lead from 10-7 to 17-7 and never looked back.
Pay attention to the tight ends to keep making important – and more noticeable – contributions.
4. Tanner Kuljian, punter / owner
SDSU punter Tanner Kuljian really wanted to prove himself when he switched from USD in the summer.
Now he has his chance.
While Matt Araiza did both the kicking and punting duties to open the season, Kuljian will now take over the punting.
In fact, Kuljian got his start in Utah last week when he started a 58-yard punt against the Aggies in the fourth quarter.
That was in Logan, Utah (elevation 4,534 feet). Kuljian comes back to Earth this week at Carson (39 feet).
Kuljian seems to have a strong leg, but Hoke said he won the job with his consistency.
In fact, Kuljian could be scrutinized more closely in his other role on the team – the owner of Araiza’s place kicks.
SDSU had two missed field attempts against the Aggies. In one of the mistakes, Kuljian did not turn the ball to twist the laces away.
If there are any unanswered questions about Kuljian’s fingering, expect broad receiver Ethan Dedeaux to step into the role.
San Jose State’s seven defeats to SDSU mean no one on the Spartan list had success against the Aztecs.
Are close losses in the past two years – 27-17 last year and 16-13 in 2018 – when SDSU fought aggressively enough to make the Spartans believe they can keep up?
Or do blowout losses – 38-7, 30-7, 42-3, and 52-7 – have the last four years in mind?
If the Spartans go south early in the game, there isn’t a lot of muscle memory to bend over for a comeback.
The state of San Jose will have to wait for the first two quarters for the Spartans to believe they can make a game of this.