A muggy evening of football in Auburn matched the muggy offensive efforts before each team found their legs.
To the world, it was an unexpected, well-fought game from the Spartans.
For San Jose State, it was all expected.
“This team has high expectations and we think we could have a really good football team here,” said head coach Brent Brennan. “We weren’t surprised by tonight.”
But as expected, more size and more athleticism wore down the Spartans by the fourth quarter as the Tigers managed to pull away to a 24-16 win. It was an ugly win by Auburn standards, but certainly one anyone would take.
It was much better performance in week two for the Spartans coming within one possession to an astonishing upset at Auburn.
“To see them playing together like that tonight and move the football the way we did,” said Brennan on if the performance could set the tone for the season. “I’m excited about what I’m seeing from them and I am optimistic.”
Auburn was expected to light up the scoreboard, but at the start of the fourth quarter, it was just a 17-10 lead for the heavily-favored Tigers.
When the Spartans added a second Taren Schive field goal starting off the last quarter cutting the lead to 17-13, the Auburn crowd was nervous. Schive finished the night with three field goals after a tentative start to the season.
“Taren was balling. He was lights out tonight,” said Brennan on the unwavering support for any players who get overly critiqued. “I think the kind of support we give is so important with young players who face massive scrutiny.”
“As teammates, as family, as brothers, we have to support those guys - good or bad. And it starts in the practice environment and I firmly believe that,” continued a spirited Brennan.
But for Auburn in such a close game, tension was building at home and the finicky Auburn crowd wasn’t going to be forgiving.
First half of mostly stalling out
It took Auburn’s sixth drive of the game in the second quarter to finally hit the end zone on a 9-play, 75-yard drive to take their first lead (7-3).
It took the Spartans’ sixth drive of the game to take back the lead (10-7). A 12-play, 75-yard drive engineered by SJS‘ QB Chevan Cordiero led to a 1-yard plunge by RB Kairee Robinson.
Cordiero’s performance was of a brilliant, ball-controlling veteran; accurate and decisive under any type of pressure.
“It’s basically from living in coach McGiven’s office and just watching film 24/7 with him, asking questions and him getting me prepared,” said Cordiero on his field vision and game management. “My pre-snap reads are so easy and that’s when we get rolling. We just got to start from the first drive and score every drive.”
Otherwise, it was a half marred by penalties and muddy, confused offenses that started the game.
“For me, the noise is something I’m use to,” said Cordiero on the stadium levels possibly contributing to the confusion and illegal motion penalties. “We tried going silent count but at the end of the day, we’ve got to finish on all of our drives.”
San Jose State also managed two first-half interceptions, one each by Tre Jenkins and Chase Willaims, as the Spartan defense held their own great performance.
“The competition is the same,” said DE Junior Fehoko on the level of competition from Auburn. “It was just another game for us; another day in the office.”
Fehoko added his take on SJS’ defensive performance and how their conditioning held up, “My conditioning was definitely better than last week, but I’m never satisfied and conditioning is going to be a big emphasis for the team going into the bye week.”
Tigers super-size their second-half performance
As a gallant Spartan defense and offense outperformed the Tigers in the first half, Auburn came alive in the second half as if almost on queue.
Auburn’s first drive of the half was a quick, efficient two minute, 4-play, 74-yard drive ending with a 4-yard TD run by Auburn QB TJ Finley. Finley led a 17-point second half to do his part to seal the win.
The Tigers finishing with 378 total yards on offense (169 passing, 210 rushing) was about matched by the Spartans 329 total yards; much of that generated by Cordiero’s 275 passing yards performance (24-40, 60% completion rate, no INTs or TDs).
On the Spartan receiving end were eight different receivers.
“We knew we were going to come into this game and get a lot of man coverage,” said Spartan WR Charles Ross (89 receiving yards on 5 receptions). “We knew we had to take deep shots and we just studied film and made sure we could air it out on them and that’s what we did.”
The Auburn game plan was mostly what Brennan and staff expected given the Spartan’s familiarity with the Tiger coaching staff.
“They did a nice job,” said Brennan. “Their quarterback settled in and their second quarterback was a really challenging change up to deal with.”
“Defensively, they were a bit of the same; similar scheme we were familiar with, but just bigger bodies,” said Brennan. “That’s how and where it’s so different and that’s why I’m so proud of our team’s performance.”
The Spartans are on bye week before they face Western Michigan at home September 24th.
Free premium content and perspectives on San Jose State on the MWC