San Jose State (1-5, 0-2 MW) came into a sold-out Albertsons Stadium Saturday night and... shell-shocked Boise State (3-3, 2-0 MW) 27-14...in the first-half...before the Spartans fell off the proverbial cliff in the second-half in a 35-27 losing effort.
“I don’t have an answer to what happened to us in the second-half tonight,” said head coach Brent Brennan. “But we didn’t help ourselves not scoring any points in the second-half and not stopping them. It was heartbreaking and everyone’s hurting really bad.”
Trying to pin down where, how and why the wheels came off again in the second half is certainly difficult to corral for the layman’s eyes, because if Brennan can’t immediately see it, perhaps it’s more systemic.
“There were just too many big plays that hurt us to help them get back in the game,” said Brennan.
The Spartan defense forced the issue from the get-go. Grabbing three turnovers in the first-half, one each from linebackers Bryun Parham and Jordan Pollard on Boise’s star RB Ashton Jeanty. Pollard also had an interception.
It all helped lead to 27 first-half points.
“We have to just make more plays,” said Parham who finished with a game high 12 tackles. “We can’t just play one half and not play the other half. It’s a four quarter game!”
As the dreaded second-half woes continues and no one has answers, it doesn’t mean the Spartans can’t get wins the next six games. It all still comes down to every player executing the basics. Beating less talented teams only masks the lack of prolonged execution.
“We just got to tackle, cover and get off blocks.” said Parham restating the defensive basics with frustration.
Case in point of not meeting those basics, the Bronco’s Jeanty defied Boise’s own trolling naysayers after his slow start by exploding for 167 yards on the ground on 24 carries. And the toggling between quarterbacks Taylen Green and Maddux Madsen also looked to flummox the Spartan defense in the second half.
“Because they’re both good players and they’re both so different, it was difficult,” said Brennan. “A couple times we’re playing coverage in those situations and we got beat by the quarterback draws and couldn’t get them down, which is really disheartening, because we tackled so well in the first-half.”
Offensively, no one could blame stalwart QB Chevan Cordeiro. Cordeiro was protoypical Cordeiro going 23-38 for 325 yards passing, one rushing TD and one INT.
Cordeiro was able to immediately capitalize on Bronco turnovers leading to five scoring drives in the first-half.
But as much as the Spartan offense looked smooth and calculated in the first-half, the second-half looked forced and awkward.
“We just didn’t do enough on offense,” said running back Kairee Robinson. “And me personally, I didn’t do enough other.”
Robinson’s 61 yards on 12 carries and one rushing touchdown was adequate statistically. Cordeiro also spread the wealth among 10 different receivers.
Cordeiro isn’t the problem. Probably the reliance on his legs and ability to scramble is too much a burden to take. Each team SJS lost too schemed and figured it out in their second halves. The Spartans have not.
Where the Spartan offensive contribution and pressure is spread “evenly” in the first-half, SJS looks like they could be a nationally-ranked team until the second-half kicks in, which looks more predicated on Cordeiro keeping drives alive.
Collectively, there is a mental blockage or relaxed attitude that hypnotizes the team. People try to wake each other up, but it becomes a death spiral.
“Once you feel a couple big scores like that, you can definitely feel it,” said Robinson on the momentum shift creeping in. “On the sidelines, I’m telling my guys, ‘We’re good, now it’s our time to go make plays.’”
The only layman answer for now is the coaches do need to do a better job in lighting and relighting the fire over and over again, because this team is capable.