In their fourth straight home opening season win, San Jose State (1-0,0-0) struggled mightily but managed a closer than expected 21-17 win over Portland State (0-1, 0-0).
The Vikings offered toe-to-toe competition start to finish.
16,291 in attendance at CEFCU Stadium witnessed a slow grind game with star Spartan QB Chevan Cordiero trying to take over the offense. Cordiero finished with two rushing touchdowns and one passing TD (15-30, 239 yards passing).
Cordeiro’s legs led the way to help open the offense, though his rushing stats didn’t show it. Cordiero’s performance was textbook; indicative of his college career at Hawaii. But Cordiero often struggled without enough protection, while enduring a pummeling.
Early concerns showed up along a young offensive line with only two seniors.
Seven sacks on Cordiero by the Viking defense emphasized it, which offered little time or opportunity for Cordiero and running backs to find enough breathing room. More than often, just a second or two more, showed clear opportunities to do more damage than the score showed.
When things did open up, Spartan receiver Elijah Cooks took full advantage mainly over FCS All-American Viking DB Anthony Adams. Cooks ended with 123 yards receiving on six catches.
The Spartan defense were pelted by a slew of Viking receivers, highlighted only by a Kenyon Reed interception in the red zone and a goal line stop at the one-yard line to end the first half.
Defensively for SJS, it was too close for comfort. Though the Spartans won the turnover battle 3-0, it only offered an extra few minutes of fruitless possession time.
Viking QB Dante Chachere (24-37, 270 yards passing, 2 passing TDs, 2 INTs), in his first start, performed well, keeping the Spartan defense on the field forever.
“He’s a baller,” said Spartan linebacker Jordan Cobbs. “He came out blazing. On some of his throws, I said, ‘Wow, he made that throw?!’”
When an aggressive Spartan defensive showed its teeth, costly penalties kept them on the field. One of two unsportsmanlike penalties caused DB Tre White to be disqualified for the game.
Time of possession greatly favored the Vikings 36:48 to the Spartans 22:12 in large part to an elusive Chachere, who stayed sack free.
The slow grind continued into the second half
The Spartans were expected to unload with Cordiero wanting to play fast, but not without time in the pocket. The Spartan defense remained on the field, as the offense continued to stall.
Viking’s head coach Bruce Barnum called a bold game: a successful flea flicker at their own one-yard line, two-for-two on fourth down plays and trusting Chachare’s arm and feet kept Portland poised for the win.
“That’s what coach Barnum does out there,” said Brennan. “He’s always had guts - like who calls a flea-flicker on their own one-yard line?! I’ve never seen that before.”
For the Spartans, lucky breaks kept them in the game. From missed coverages by the Spartan defense to a dropped Viking TD pass and a Viking punt fumble offered life.
A missed Spartan field goal to tie and a late interception by Cobbs at the Viking 23-yard-line offered yet more life, but still nothing on the scoreboard.
“There was a lot of things we made mistakes on and it shouldn’t have been this close, but we got the win and that’s all that matters,” said Cordiero.
Finally, more shots at the end zone with a couple of pass penalties starting at the Viking’s 17-yard-line with 1:39 left in the game and...Cordiero finally settles it with a gutsy 2-yard TD run.
“My mom and dad ended up coming to the game and that helped,” said Cordiero on his feelings on his first game with the Spartans. “I wasn’t really worried and I don’t care about all that stuff about being away from home. I’m comfortable. I feel good and I love this team. We just got to fix things up and we’ll have a bright season.”
The Spartans visit a whole different world in Auburn next week, where a key goal is to remain healthy.