San Jose State’s (4-1, 2-0 MW) win over UNLV (4-2, 2-1 MW) was supposed to be a close game, because statistically, personnel-wise, win-loss record, point spread, and even the taro cards said it was.
It just wasn’t - but it was entertaining for one side.
San Jose State completely handled UNLV 40-7 and were in control the entire game. By the middle of the third quarter, the game seemed to throttle down and in the second consecutive game, SJS QB Walter Eget and many others got some playing time.
That’s how well the game was in hand, again.
On both sides of the ball, the Spartans erased what statistics and point spreads mean, at least for this game. The statistically top quarterback in the conference, Rebel Doug Brumfield, was knocked out the game by the end of the first quarter going 1-6 for eight yards.
UNLV QB Cameron Friel took over by the start of the second quarter finishing 15-22 for 153 yards and one TD pass for UNLV’s only score late in the third quarter.
In short, SJS’ defense was swarming; holding what was once the top scoring team in the conference to a fraction of their output (213 yards = 52 rush + 161 receiving).
In short, SJS’ offense was balanced with lead conjurer Chevan Cordiero completely mystifying the Rebels.
Cordiero’s two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs were textbook for anyone following his career (18-27, 230 yards passing & 14 rushes for 109 yards).
“Practicing against our defense everyday, every week,” said Cordiero on his continual improvement and progress. “Just competing against them - they’re the best defense in the Mountain West and they make us better and that’s what helps.”
Cordiero’s running vision and ability was also in full effect on the Rebels. UNLV’s scheme to minimize SJS’ perimeter receivers only widened the depth and breadth of OC Kevin McGiven’s weaponry.
“Sometimes I feel the pocket open and sometimes receivers are covered and whatever they give me, I’ll take it,” said Cordiero on the impossibility for a defense to pick its poison.
For anyone not named Cordiero in the Spartan running game, there was another 100+ yards chipped in (203 total rush yards).
For TE Dominick Mazotti, the middle of the field was his playground. Mazotti topped all receivers with 100 yards, seven catches and a 22-yard TD reception.
“I wouldn’t say I knew I was going to get the ball that much or it surprised me,” said Mazotti. “We just roll with the punches when others are double-covered. We all stay positive and Chevan finds us.”
In all, it was expansion of creativity and growth for a McGiven offense (433 total yards).
And deep in the engine room, the unsung heroes on the offensive line, who continue to improve and continue their maturity process, as Spartan head coach Brent Brennan has often described.
“Big Josh is a fantastic football coach,” said Brennan on the play of the offensive line. “The best thing he does is creating an environment that is super competitive and also super connected. Those guys are so close. They love Josh and he loves them.”
Brennan added, “Josh will still be hard on them, yell at them and all, but he’s just as quick to put his arm around them. He’s always teaching and the guys are always eager to learn and eager to work.”
“In that offensive line position, if you don’t have those two things, you have no chance.”
The little things matter as much as the big things
It all the ways we could shed light in the Spartans’ win, let’s challenge ourselves on the unappreciated things that were underneath the win.
Statistically, except for Cordiero, there were no standout individual performance versus what was a total team effort.
The usual suspects: the entire defense and now the entire offense - where there’s still more to come - barring injuries.
Statistically, yes, the Spartans as a whole are certainly rising, but the other half of success that’s still more often misunderstood is the culture and spirit, which Brennan continues to drive home and tries to describe to the room.
The two halves together is what should make for a memorable season; even if things might not pan out.
But just to be a devil’s advocate in the midst of a glorious victory (because that’s what the media does) - one of the biggest littlest things is the fear of losing what makes you tick.
One has to be worried that your quarterback runs so much that you’re one injury from an immediate drop off.
In a few runs, going head up to make a first down often received a clench and gasp from fans.
“It’s football at the end of the day,” said Cordiero. “If I’m going to get hit, I get hit and I’m going to stand up, but the last couple games I’ve been sliding more.”
“I want to last the whole season. That’s my mindset.”
A collective release and unclenching, as the Spartans take a day off and ready themselves for the Fresno rivalry game at Bulldog Stadium, where the Spartans will be favored.