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Spartans ground down by the Falcon’s grind game

Air Force’s relentless ground game too much to handle

SJS RB Kairee Robinson starting a reverse to Nick Nash
photo by: Joe Couto

In a demoralizing 45-20 loss to Air Force (4-0, 2-0 MW), San Jose State (1-4, 0-1 MW) started fast and played a first-half of enough sound football to temporarily counter the Falcon’s triple option run attack, as 10,000+ career passing yards Spartan QB Chevan Cordeiro tried to do his part.

“It obviously sucks starting off 1-4,” said Cordeiro. “And obviously, we have a hard schedule, but it’s no excuse. I still believe we have a good team and I believe we all believe that.”

“After this loss, we’re also not in the right head space right now,” added Cordeiro. “But we know we’re all that we’ve got and that’s all that matters.”

Air Force kept Cordeiro and the Spartan offense off the field with 400 total rush yards eating up nearly 40 minutes of time to SJS’ 21 minutes. Cordeiro finished with 239 yards passing on 24-35 attempts, no touchdowns and one interception.

Cordeiro completed his first 11 passes to five different receivers and opened the scoring on a 10-yard run to open the game after leading an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Spartan running back Kairee Robinson helped keep pace with two first-half touchdowns in the second quarter finishing with 82 yards for the game.

Air Force more than delivered; running 19 straight times with a squadron of Falcons before throwing a pass; controlling the ball and moving fast when needing to score. Airman running back Emmanuel Michel gained 88 yards with two rushing touchdowns in the first-half breaking the 100-yard mark early into the third quarter; finishing with 148 yards on 33 carries and three rushing touchdowns on the night.

With Air Force doing what they do, San Jose State bent and broke enough to just give up 17 first-half points but on an astounding 199 rushing yards in the half for the Falcons. With Robinson and TE Dominick Mazotti’s efforts in the first-half, Cordeiro’s perfect half found the Spartans up 20-17 before the SJS’ wheels came off.

The Falcons opened the second-half on another long, extended scoring drive that took up nearly nine minutes of the third quarter and a 24-20 lead. Along with gaining over 300 yards of total offense by the time the Spartans got the ball, the inverse effect of Air Force’s ball control kept the Spartan’s best weapon off the field in Cordeiro.

“We always knew it was going to be their dive play or the pitch out,” said linebacker Bryun Parham on the Falcon’s run game. “We just have to do our jobs better. It’s as simple as that. We just have to do better.”

Meaning that every Spartan offensive touch was vital, especially in the second half, but SJS’ first possession of the second-half was a three-and-out which took less than a minute.

“I think we called a naked boot, then they called a pressure from the boundary and their defensive end dropped forcing Chev to throw it away,” said Brennan describing the critical first possession of the second-half that failed. “Then one of those calls was a missed pass with Maliki on the sideline (which looked to be a defensive holding).”

“The margin of error against Air Force is so small, because we weren’t going to get many possessions,” said Brennan.

Air Force promptly went the other way on a 13-play, 71-yard demoralizing scoring drive extending to an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Falcon John Lee Eldridge’s 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns factored into the big rushing day for Air Force.

As the Spartans ran out of energy to stop the ground game, offensively, SJS tried to play fast to no avail. One last critical fourth-and-one attempt with 10-minutes left in the game failed on the Spartans side of the field, which essentially stopped any chance for SJS.

With the short field, Air Force’s third successful fourth down conversion found the end zone again, as a majority of the 16,124 at CEFCU filed out with eight minutes still remaining in the game.

The Spartans get a needed bye week before finishing their gauntlet tour at Boise State on October 7th.

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