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Spartans need cold redemption in Utah

SJS QB Chevan Cordiero throws against SDSU, Snapdragon Stadium, San Diego, CA, November 12, 2022
photo by: Austin Ginn

Location: Maverik Stadium – Logan, UT

Date/Time: Saturday, November 19th @ 6:45 PM PDT

Broadcast: Fox Sports 1 | KTRB 860 AM

Head-to-head history: San Jose State (6-3, 4-2 MW) is 20-1-19 over Utah State (5-5, 4-2 MW). The Spartans under Brent Brennan are 0-3 against the Aggies.

Nearing the end of the regular season in the second consecutive road game for San Jose State, every game is still important to win out in this love-me-love-me-not Mountain West season.

Though the disappointing loss to San Diego State last week greatly diminished chances for the Spartans taking the West, beating Utah State is still important in a few ways for San Jose.

But have the Spartans auto-corrected enough going into an indubitable tough, cold-weather game?

“Against the Aztecs, I thought we kept playing and fighting to the very end which speaks to the team and who they are and who they want to be,” said Brennan on last week’s loss and going into Utah State. “There definitely were too many mistakes against the Aztecs. I think because of the magnitude of that game, our guys were trying to do too much; trying to help out over here while they should be over there and things like that.”

Against a surging and hopeful bowl-eligible Utah State team that has had their own ups and downs, the Aggies should be highly motivated to take out SJS.

Though there’s no chance for Utah State to take the Mountain title this year, one more win and the Aggies are bowl-eligible.

“Utah State is playing their best football of the season right now winning four of their last five and their place is always a tough place to go to considering the elevation and weather,” said Brennan.

In three straight wins over Brennan-led teams since 2017, the Aggies have outscored the Spartans 171-51.

Game-time temperatures: low-20’s. Elevation: 4,534 feet.

“We’re going to play how we play,” said Brennan on any cold-weather considerations. “But it is interesting, I don’t think we had a game below 60 degrees this season.”

“It is different for us as a California team. I tell the players, say if you get drafted to Green Bay, are you not going to go?” added Brennan further entertaining the cold-weather question. “You’ve got to play. So let’s get ready to play!”

What the Aggies will prepare for on offense

Utah State has had a remarkable showing this season even though they’ve endured a round-robin of injured quarterbacks.

Season-starter Logan Bonner broke his foot leading to current starter Cooper Legas, who performed well in a win over Hawaii last week throwing for 238 yards and three touchdown passes. Levi Williams and Bishop Davenport were also in the QB rotation this year for the Aggies.

The Aggies are certainly aware San Jose State is third in the country in total sacks and first in the country in team sack rate; led by Spartan bedrocks Viliami Fehoko Jr. and Cade Hall.

The Spartan linebacking corp has also been consistently good over the last few years; each time successfully replenishing their stock. This year is no different with youngsters Bryun Parham and Jordan Pollard active, confident and deep in the defensive mix.

“Scott White is a fantastic football coach and does an excellent job with those guys,” said Brennan. “You can see the production with that group over the years. It’s really fun to watch from Kyle Harmon to Jordan Cobbs and these two young guys step in and they’re ballin’ and improving by watching film and attacking their process and development.”

In response, the Aggies have a good offensive line, but who also looks to be nicked-up. If they can’t keep Legas safe enough, favor the Spartans’ defense to redeem itself after a disconcerting loss last week.

But something else the Aggies certainly know - the Spartan secondary has given up well over 200 yards passing over the last three games.

What the Aggies will prepare for on defense

The Spartan offense last week was only on the field half the time as San Diego State’s offense.

Led all year by the top passer in the conference in Chevan Cordeiro, a more complete offense needs to show up to at least counterbalance the Spartans’ defensive effort.

That means a semblance of a running game to offer its own offensive counterbalance to Cordeiro.

When Kairee Robinson can average 5+ yards a carry, the Spartans have won each time, though it often took Cordeiro to soften up the defense with his dual-threat capabilities to get a decent run attack going.

With Utah State struggling to stop the run, it will say a whole lot for the Spartan running game if they can or cannot run on Saturday. The Aggies have enough game film, precedent and skills to know how and where to disrupt this Spartan offense.

“The thing that gets tricky this time of year is week-to-week we don’t know exactly if all the pieces are going to be there for their team or our team,” Brennan said on teams knowing more of each other’s tendencies.

“You’re so far into the season with the wear and tear of the game and the season; who’s in, who’s out, you’ve got a young guy there, who’s stepping up and some of the stuff you don’t really know until you get to game day.”

Not to say this is a statement game, but in its own unique way for the Spartans, it is:

  • To better position themselves as a bowl-eligible team
  • To guarantee a winning season in the conference
  • To finally get a win over the Aggies since 2008
  • To finally take a cold-weather road game in a tough environment, since...