Location: CEFCU Stadium – San Jose, CA
Date/Time: Friday, October 7th @ 7:30 PM PDT
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network | KTRB 860 AM (Radio)
Head-to-head history: San Jose State (3-1, 1-0 MW) is 19-6-1 against UNLV (4-1, 2-0 MW). Spartan head coach Brent Brennan is 3-2 on the Rebels and 1-0 over Rebels’ head coach Marcus Arroyo.
For many, it’s hard to believe that early in this 2022 Mountain West season, a significant game will happen between the Spartans and the Rebels – two college football teams that have had way too many losing seasons this century.
“I’m excited there’s a meaningful game between San Jose State football and UNLV football and really excited for the conference,” said Brennan. “It’s cool.”
First-place UNLV and San Jose State have emerged as front runners for the division and need we say to the dismay of the status quo – possible conference championship contenders?
Both teams have built and rebuilt their program DNAs in relatively short order from the ground up by two hearty fellows who know the product on and off the field is always about people.
Two guys who’s football roots started as San Jose State assistant coaches (2005-2008), who’s families are close, where one guy was in the other guy’s wedding.
“I’m really not surprised with what Marcus is doing at UNLV,” said Brennan. “He and I started together, and a lot of people know we’re close. We talk a lot; bounce ideas off each other and he’s a smart, driven guy who’s incredible with people.”
As there is with players, there is also a brotherhood of men and coaches from opposing teams who support each other just as well.
“Though we have this really strong friendship, the cool thing about football is that coaches help other coaches,” said Brennan. “It’s not like other kinds of businesses where we have proprietary concepts that we can’t share with anybody. We love the game of college football and we’re trying to make it better - the more we share, the more we move ourselves forward.”
It can be a foreign concept to finicky, overcritical fans and critics who most coaches scoff and ignore.
There’s a game happening too, bro
“You could see all their progress last year and I’m pretty sure their last four games prior to our game last year were all decided on a final drive where our game was no different,” said Brennan on rising UNLV. “Our game was decided on the last play by Kyle Harmon’s sack. And they’re playing even better than last year.”
If the Rebels are playing better, more believe the Spartans are playing even better based on their crescendo and body of work, so far. Sure, UNLV is among the top statistical teams in the conference, but it skews down a bit minus lesser competition in Idaho State and Northern Texas.
As an almost touchdown favorite, it’s not overconfident to “feel” it could be a larger point spread for the Spartans. For this writer, it’s all subjective not just because of their dominance in the last two games, but moreso the collective viewing assessment of each opposing teams’ games.
How the Spartans can win
Defense is still first and foremost the Spartan identity, but a very close second is the Spartan offense.
As this yin and yang provides buoyancy and equilibrium, a Chevan Cordiero-led offense with all his tools expects to eat up their fair share of clock to keep the opposing offense off the field, thus the Spartan defense better rested.
The Spartan offense has also not been cursed with turnovers considering the Rebel defense is second in the country with 11 interceptions. If things hold true here for SJS, scoring big on the Rebels will speak volumes. It also helps keep the UNLV offense, the top scoring team in the conference, off the field that much more.
Enter stage right, a solid Spartan defense. With another big backfield to fend off, 6’5” 225 lb. UNLV QB Doug Brumfield will be the focus this time.
“Brumfield is an excellent quarterback giving them another dimension,” said Brennan. “He’s a dynamic player, where that element wasn’t quite the same last year because he was injured.”
And just like Auburn, the other half of the big backfield equation is 6’3” 230 lb. running back Aidan Robbins averaging over 100 yards and 20 carries per game.
Both Brumsfield and Robbins confident style of play is patient and loping, where their size and athleticism provides that advantage. But the Spartan defense is equipped to solve the UNLV offense, where the Rebels don’t have the overall team size and athleticism SJS was exposed to with Auburn.
“I think the biggest difference and challenge is the quarterback. Because we’ve been dealing with big backs for the last three weeks now, it’s not a new thing,” said Brennan.
Also as with big backfield teams, Brumsfield and Robbins can inflict their will late in games.
“There’s a certain mentality, mindset and discipline you need in the fourth quarter to close out games and finish and that will be our focus, especially when we’re fatigued,” said Brennan.
After the game dynamics
Often with competitors, especially competitors who are friends, there is a contrast not many human beings can do or handle - to express kindness, fun and joy with one another on the flip side of hyper-competition.
With Brennan and Arroyo, football is life and life as friends continues far beyond the game.
“We do have a lot of fun - a lot of fun talking football, family and everything in between,” said Brennan.
Asked if there might be any differences that sometimes come between the two, “There’s no question Marcus lifts more weights than I do and he wears a little more tighter shirts to accentuate those guns and I am envious of that.”
How refreshing it would be for the conference powers to shift away from the status quo with these two leaders with many more stories to tell.
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