Everyone knows David Fales is an amazing quarterback (who last week was sick. HONEST) and Bene Benwikere is getting a lot of hype as one of the nation's leading cornerbacks in passes defended, but they were there during the beginning of the season when the Spartans dropped three straight games. What's changed? Well, schemes are more fully installed and the offense and defense are gelling, but perhaps there is something more going on. Here are three players on offense and defense that you may not have heard of that are propelling the Spartans to victory.
Jarrod Lawson, a man with no scholarship: The Spartans averaged just about 82 yards of total rushing their first 4 games. This was made more awkward because it was extremely obvious that a lot of offensive coordinator Jimmie Dougherty's game plans involved the running game giving some production. During that fourth game, a walk on running back with no scholarship by the name of Jarrod Lawson got 6 touches and ran for 29 yards. His yardage increased over the next four games and during the last two games against Wyoming and UNLV it was pretty obvious he was the starting running back for the Spartans and not just another back in rotation. San Jose's rushing average went from 82 YPG rushing during their first four to their last four averaging 216 YPG! Jarrod Lawson can run inside and out, and he can and has taken a lot of punishment without coughing up the ball.
Tyler Winston, a quarterback's dream wide receiver: Though scholarshipped, Tyler Winston was one three star recruit that wasn't even supposed to play this year. He was not at all a part of the first three games. When Noel Grigsby went down Tyler Winston was "activated" for the game vs. Utah State. He had one catch, for 25 yards. The next four games? He averaged 133 YPG. Yeah, he's got Fales throwing to him, but Tyler Winston also makes plays on the ball that he shouldn't be able to make. He fights for every ball thrown his way and gains huge yardage after the catch. Everyone on the TV talks about Chandler Jones this and Chandler Jones that but, yeah, you can have more than one star wide receiver on a team.
David Peterson, Mustachioed Menace. I gotta give the O Line some love. After being crushed by Stanford in week 2, David Peterson started getting reps with the first team when it became obvious that guard Nicholas Kaspar playing at center position was like a fish that was used to playing at the guard position but instead was forced to play at center, out of water. I think I messed that simile up somehow. Anyways. Peterson playing at center and Kaspar playing his old role proved to be an immense upgrade, and the O line has come together and become a mauler of a front 5. During the last game, the UNLV defense was clearly being pushed around and driven to exhaustion by the Spartans O line, who were opening up massive lanes for Lawson to run through.
Christian Tago, Troy Palamalu come again (AND THIS TIME A LB?!?)?: Yeah yeah, linebacker Kieth Smith, he's great. He's leading the nation in tackles per game at the FBS level. WHATEVER. Everyone knows about him. But do you know about Christian Tago? He's got a Palamalu hairdo going and he has been hitting opposing offenses hard. After missing the season opener with a hamstring injury, he played decent football the next three games. He's really come into his own these last four though, and the Wyoming game aside he's been providing the Spartan defense with much better gap integrity. He was a big factor in keeping the UNLV Rebels to just 86 yards of total rushing. He's also gotten a couple sacks to sweeten the defensive pot.
Eugene Taylor, the closest thing San Jose State has to a pass rusher. The Spartan defense hasn't been as effective as it was last year, though they are getting better. One of the reasons it hasn't been so great is they have trouble getting to the quarterback. Eugene Taylor has been trying to rectify that. He has played a major part in pressuring opposing quarterbacks, and as a result (not of him solely, but with his help) they've been throwing momentum shifting or halting interceptions.
Dasheon Frierson, heir designate to Bene Benwikere: Here's a name you almost certainly have not heard of. I don't know why though. A redshirt Junior, he's quietly stood in Bene Benwikere's shadow, knocking away passes like it was going out of style. At 9 passes defended, he matches Benewikere (who's only played 7 games, but w/e...) and he's grabbed an interception and blocked a kick to boot. Yeah, that's right, San Jose State has two defensive backs ranked in FBS top 25 in passes defended per game (3rd and t-24th)