In an about-face from their last three games, San Jose State (2-5, 1-2 MW) started slow in the first-half against New Mexico (2-4, 0-2 MW), but woke up to a manic second-half for a 52-24 win at University Stadium in Albuquerque.
“Our defense brought it,” said Spartan QB Chevan Cordeiro. “As well as our offense and special teams.”
While showing flashes of good football the last few weeks, the Spartans were in a must-win situation with exactly half the season remaining.
“I’m excited and proud how our team finished the game and I’m optimistic. I think that’s more of who we are and who we can be,” said head coach Brent Brennan. “We played great defense in the second-half and obviously, played great offense and there was a lot of really good stuff in that second-half.”
Where the Spartans aimed for a consistent effort for an entire game, it was still a game of two different halves. It was also a sloppy game marked by 15 Lobos’ penalties and 11 by the Spartans.
Where UNM managed long scoring drives in the first-half, SJS had flash scoring plays to mark their first-half.
New Mexico held the ball on offense twice as long as the Spartans the first two quarter (20:51 to 9:09), though a 35-yard TD jaunt by Kairee Robinson and blocked punt TD return by Justin Stearns saw SJS only behind 17-14 at the half.
Cordeiro was also atypical in the first-half. With 86 passing yards on 3-8 attempts, it was part of an OK first-half of play for SJS.
“Obviously, this win was a team effort,” said Cordeiro who ended up with two touchdown passes (8-17, 272 yards passing). “And with the run game going, it sucks in the defense.”
Robinson’s 126 rushing yards on 15 carries and a four touchdown day, along with cohort Quali Conley’s 123 yards on 10 carries brought the dimension Cordeiro and any formidable offense needs.
“The safeties and linebackers come in, especially on the fakes,” said Cordeiro. “On that 54-yard touchdown to Nash in the third quarter; that’s what happened. He was one-on-one and I took it.”
On the first play to open the second-half, Robinson exploded for another long touchdown run off a Cordeiro pass. This time a 55-yarder to take a 21-17 lead, before the Spartans started to run away with the game.
“It helped that we came out with Kairee scoring a touchdown,” said Brennan on the second-half surge. “And our defense kept answering the call and flying around with physicality with lots of people going to the football.”
“Our defense was outstanding tonight.”
After the Lobos showed well in the first-half, San Jose State played shutdown defense for the remainder of the game. Along with an ascending Spartan offense that put up 531 total yards, the momentum swing hopes to take the Spartans over Utah State next week.
“The truth is Utah State took Fresno to the wire last night and the Aggies got an extra day on us,” said Brennan. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, because every week in this conference everyone’s good and every team can beat each other. You have to be prepared week-in and week-out.”