There’s a tale of two cities, a tale of two halves and now a tale of all of the above.
From what was perfect sunny 70-degree weather at game time to cloudy and overcast in the second half to sunny again, it was a game that just about mirrored the same.
In the end, San Jose State (5-4, 3-2 MW) outlasted Wyoming (4-4, 0-4 MW) for a 27-21 win in front of 13,042 at CEFCU Stadium.
A stagnant first quarter
Imagine a first quarter of two very flat offenses that combined for only 100 total offensive yards. Or maybe it was two suffocating defenses dominating the first quarter.
Not so unexpectedly, the Spartans were on cue with two penalties and two dropped passes that led to almost total offensive stagnation in the first quarter.
Luckily, there were only four total penalties for the Spartans giving up 27 yards of field position overall. Consider it a good day there, unless you compare it to zero penalties by Wyoming.
As far as dropped passes go, it should be included in the normal stat line, as it is with penalties. Throughout the game, there were five clear drops by Spartan receivers and backs that held back drives or big gains...again.
Just one less drop could have pushed QB Nick Nash’s completion percentage past 50% for the game. In all, Nash threw for 150 yards on 11 of 22 with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Charles Ross.
But Nash made his mark on the ground on this day.
Waking up in the second quarter
Fresh into the second quarter, Nash, the now all-time leading rushing quarterback in San Jose State history rushed for 48 yards along with a 1-yard TD rush in SJS’ fourth offensive series. Nash ran for 112 yards on 11 carries for the game.
Nash in 22 career games has amassed 797 rush yards surpassing Spartan Kenny Potter’s 737 QB rush yards from five years ago. Certainly, more to add on for Nash if he remains healthy.
By the end of the second quarter, the Spartans tallied up 218 yards of offense with 144 yards on the ground leading to a 17-7 halftime lead. SJS ended up with 388 yards of total offense (238 yards on the ground).
Wyoming decided to wake up as well. In Levi Williams’ first QB start, Williams also came alive answering back the Spartan scoring drives with a 7-play, 65-yard drive and a 54-yard TD pass to Cowboy receiver Isaiah Neyor.
Wyoming put up 400 yards of total offense with 271 yards on the ground. Cowboys’ all-world back Xazavian Valladay garnered 172 yards leading all rushers. Definitely and finally, some signs of life for a struggling but still formidable Craig Bohl team.
A second half of big punches
The second half saw a Wyoming team that could readily move the ball, but with the famous bend-don’t-break-rule from the San Jose State defense, they were able to hold off the Cowboys in their physical Spartan style.
“The hard part about Wyoming; it’s not very often that you face that kind of personnel with that many tight ends,” said Spartan head coach Brent Brennan. “No one plays football like that way anymore, where you have three tight ends in the game and then they show you they can throw the ball over the top. I think there’s going to be some good lessons there for us.”
In the third quarter, Spartan safety Jay Lenard found his first interception of the year leading to a Matt Mercurio field goal the other way (linebacker Tysyn Parker snagged his first INT in the first half). Being on the plus side of the turnover margin saw six needed points for the Spartans.
Wyoming was able to still capitalize on a long scoring drive in the third quarter setup by a 67-yard jaunt by Vallady capped by a three-yard rushing TD from his counterpart Titus Swen. Williams also tossed a 12-yard TD into the corner end zone for Neyor’s second TD grab.
“We didn’t set an edge and they changed their scheme a little bit during the game,” said Parker on the missed edge cover on Vallady’s big run. “They’re more a power run scheme trying to get into the A-gaps. They knew we were going to try and take that away, so they started to get to us on the outside where we were a little soft and they had success doing that and that ultimately led to that long run. They were making adjustments to counteract what we were doing and it was a simple mistake that we made that we eliminated, and luckily, it didn’t cost us too much.”
The Cowboys started to make more headway in the fourth quarter when the Spartan offense went back to their stagnate first quarter ways with three quick 3-and-outs, but the SJS defense stopped two Wyoming fourth down conversion attempts in the red zone that nullified long Cowboy drives.
“I do try to interject, but the coaches are pretty solid in the game plan,” said Nash on the seemingly conservative nature of the offense in the fourth quarter. “But we have a really good back in Tyler Nevens and so we’re going to keep giving him the ball in those situations.”
Hall in the clutch to end the game
With less 1:50 left in the game, Wyoming still had a chance to pull off the win starting from their 25-yard line.
Senior defensive lineman and 2020 All-American Cade Hall had other ideas. Hall was able to punch through for two consecutive sacks to bring down Williams pushing the Cowboys back 15 yards. The Cowboys then gave up the ball on downs following two incomplete passes.
“When you start off with sacks like that, it’s huge. All credit to Cade,” said linebacker Kyle Harmon on the defensive stance that ended the Cowboys hopes. “Cade’s been phenomenal for us and I’m just so happy to have him on this team.”
Hall on when he’s not getting sacks, “It’s about effort & disruption. If I’m disruptive then someone else can make a play. That’s what I focus on more in doing my job and getting plays when I can. The better I do my job, the better for the defense to work as a whole.”
If the whole of the offense and the whole of the defense can come through next Saturday, expect another very competitive game in Nevada.