There are many reasons for San Jose State’s historic success this season.
Quarterback Nick Starkel was Mountain West’s most efficient passerby.
Running backs Tyler Nevens and Kairee Robinson as well as backup quarterback Nick Nash ensure a certain balance on site.
Secondary school led by Tre Jenkins and Tre Webb has made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
However, the roots of the team’s success lie in the trenches.
“It was said over and over again that everything starts at the front,” said defender Joe Seumalo. “We go into a game, whether it’s offensive or defensive, everything starts at the front. This is a crucial point for our soccer team and for our success as these kids love to play together. ”
The big bodies were the focus of the team’s undefeated season, which ends Thursday at the Arizona Bowl against Ball State.
The line of defense, led by Mountain West Defender of the Year Cade Hall, is barely recognizable compared to last year. She chases quarterbacks and clogs the tracks. The offensive line led by Jack Snyder was an almost impenetrable wall.
Along with Indiana, Western Michigan, and Georgia State, San Jose State is one of four teams in the state to be in the top 15 bags nationwide and the fewest bags allowed per game.
Suffice it to say, the pipes fed one another.
“During training camp, we go up against these guys every day, and we go back and forth with the days that the O-Line will do better and there are days that the D-Line will get to us,” said Snyder. “The competition between the two groups has increased us even further.”
The offensive line should be a strength after only allowing 14 sacks in 2019, which was synonymous for the fifth smallest in the nation. While the unit lost a few cast members, including Troy Kowalski, who received the All-Mountain West award, it returned to veterans including Snyder, Kyle Hoppe, Trevor Robbins and Tyler Stevens.
The returning group has given Starkel enough time to find his numerous recipients. The Spartans only allowed seven bags and, with BYU, are eighth in the nation with the fewest allowed bags per game.
And they’re probably better than that.
The Air Force and Army, which are in the fewest allowed sacks per game in third and sixth place, run more than 50 times per game. Buffalo, Louisiana, UAB, and Washington run approximately 40 times per game. No team prevents fewer bags throwing as often as the state of San Jose.
At the head of those charges was Snyder, who was named Mountain West Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus. This award has only been given to three other attacking linemen at conferences across the country since Pro Football Focus began giving awards in 2014.
In 282 snapshots, Snyder didn’t allow a single quarterback hit or sack, which resulted in only two quarterback presses. Snyder’s PFF of 91.2 was the third in the nation among left-wing tackles.
“In order for him to get that honor, it speaks volumes about the type of player he is and the type of student of the game that he is,” said Starkel.
Hall said, “Jack is the best machine I’ve played against all year. He’s way better than any guys I’ve played against during the season. Having competition like Jack was huge for me because it made all games much easier to handle. ”
While the offensive line was expected to be robust, the defensive line was a question mark.
In 2019, the state of San Jose allowed 232.1 rushing yards per game, the sixth worst mark in the country. The Spartans were also among the worst in the nation when it came to quarterback pressure, ending up with just 17 sacks.
This season, the state of San Jose ranks in the top 20 for sacks per game (15th, 3.14) and rushing yards allowed per game (16th, 111.0).
“If you were to watch one of their films two years ago until now, it would be a difference between day and night,” said Snyder. “They are completely different players. They have just taken their games so many levels higher than when they arrived here. ”
Hall and Viliami Fehoko, both appointed to the All-Mountain West first team, are at the center of this transformation.
Hall, an All-America First Team for Sporting News, leads the mountain west in sacks (10) and tackles against losses (12.0). Immediately behind Hall is Fehoko, whose 10.5 tackles against the defeat are in second place in the conference.
“When you have players like that who can rush the passerby, it makes things so much easier,” said linebacker Kyle Harmon, an All-Mountain West first-team selection. “The quarterback won’t have enough time to sit in his pocket. He will be on the run. They’ll likely come up with different plans, probably some quick things, because they know they won’t have time to take a shot on the field. ”
The signs of improvement were clear at the season opener against the Luftwaffe.
In the second quarter, the Air Force had the first gate on the 1-yard line. Given the Hawks’ competence in the triple option, a touchdown seemed automatic.
Instead, San Jose State held.
The Spartans did not allow the Falcons a single yard for four consecutive games, forcing a turnover with Downs.
Two months later, in the Mountain West Championship against Boise State, the defensive line had its best performance of the season, scoring only 12 rushing yards.
In the first half, Hall set the tone by firing Hank Bachmeier in back-to-back games.
“The number one thing that stands out across the board is toughness and physicality,” said offensive coach Joe Oglesby. “This group always plays behind the border. They force you to be technically sane because if you aren’t, you will be exposed. ”
In view of the competence of the offensive and defensive line, the question then arises: Who would win if they had to compete against each other in the course of a full game without restrictions?
“It would be a good game, that’s for sure,” said Oglesby with a smile.