NCAA Football

2011 College Football Season Preview: San Jose State Spartans

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2010 Record: (1-12, 0-8 in WAC)

Head Coach: Mike MacIntyre (1-12 at San Jose State)

Last Bowl Game: 2006 New Mexico Bowl: beat New Mexico 20-12

Schedule

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9/3: at Stanford (2009 result: lost 42-17)

9/10: at UCLA

9/17: Nevada (2010 result: lost 35-13)

9/24: New Mexico State (2010 result: lost 29-27)

10/1: at Colorado State

10/8: at BYU

10/15: Hawaii (2010 result: lost 41-7)

10/29: at Louisiana Tech (2010 result: lost 45-38)

11/5: Idaho (2010 result: lost 26-23 in OT)

11/12: at Utah State (2010 result: lost 38-34)

11/19: Navy

12/3: at Fresno State (2009 result: lost 33-18)

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 16.1 ppg (8th in WAC, 115th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 78.54 yds/game (last in WAC, 119th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 236.5 yds/game (4th in WAC, 45th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 315.1 yds/game (8th in WAC, 101st in Nation)

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 34.7 ppg (8th in WAC, 104th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 203.15 yds/game (9th in WAC, 104th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 260.5 yds/game (8th in WAC, 111th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 463.7 yds/game (last in WAC, 117th in Nation)

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: -0.54 per game (8th in WAC, 98th in Nation)

Penalties: 50.6 yds/game (3rd in WAC, 52nd in Nation)

Returning Starters:

Offense: 7

Defense: 11

Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB Matt Faulkner, Sr (21 of 39 for 206 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT)

Rushing: RB Brandon Rutley, Sr (129 for 461, 4 TD)

Receiving: WR Noel Grigsby, Soph (56 rec for 822 yds, 4 TD)

Tackles: LB Keith Smith, Soph (116)

Sacks: DE Travis Johnson, Jr (7.5)

Interceptions: James Orth, Jr (3)

San Jose State fans have not had much to cheer about over the last two years. In that span they've only won 3 games and two of those were against Cal Poly and Southern Utah. By the way, the other was against New Mexico State. Can it get worse? Well, they are just 1-15 in the last two years against teams they play this year. Now for the bright side, they return a ton of starters. According to Phil Steele they return the second most in the Nation including 11 starters on defense. San Jose State is only two years removed from going 6-6 and beating Hawaii. Can they get back on track this year? To find out what 2011 has in store for the Spartans we talked to Danny from SpartanBlitz.com.

Mike MacIntyre went 1-12 in his debut season. What does he need to do better this season to help San Jose State improve?

Last season was a tough one from the beginning.  Coach MacIntyre not only had to take on perennial powerhouses Alabama and Wisconsin, he had to do so with a largely “true freshman” team.  Now that these kids have a year’s worth of experience under their belt, combined with the return of some seniors who were injured last year, Coach Mac is going to be looking for standouts, such as LB Vince Buhagiar, to lead this team this coming year.

Also, Coach Mac needs to sort out the QB situation, preferably before Summer training camp starts.  Last year, he chose to go with both Jordan La Secla and Matt Faulkner due to neither one of them standing out before the season started.  This year, the competition is between Faulkner, Dasmen Stewart and Blake Jurich (and Joe Gray when August approaches).  One of them needs to be the clear cut choice at QB and Coach Mac needs to stick with him.

San Jose State had a tough time scoring last year as they finished 115th in the Nation at 16.1 points per game. Who are the guys that most need to step up on offense to fix this area of concern?

As previously mentioned, whoever the starting QB is, they need to take a leadership role with this team.  The other aspect that really needs to step up is the running game.  SJSU was not very efficient last year with the running game.  When Coach Mac debuted last year, he switched SJSU’s offense to the pistol offense.  The pistol requires both a good passing AND running game, since the essence of the pistol relies on the defense not knowing which is coming.  Brandon Rutley and David Freeman both should get help from the O-line in terms of blocking due to added depth and experience this year.

The O-line has benefited from added depth this year due to SJSU having a full compliment of 85 scholarships for the first time in recent memory.  The O-line has also benefited from the hiring of Stanford’s David Forman as the strength and conditioning coach.  The line is noticeably stronger and leaner than in previous years.

The receiving corps, led by sophomores Chandler Jones and Noel Grigsby (both had breakout years last year) and senior slot receiver Josh Harrison need to continue their good play from last year.  They will benefit greatly from having an established QB once training camp starts.  The other help will come from Coach Mac favorite TE Ryan Otten.  Otten had some injury issues last year, but is slated to be the focal point of Coach Mac’s pistol offense this year.

Defensively, the Spartans gave up over 460 yards per game last year. Who are some of the players on defense that can make an impact?

Defensively, the Spartans are actually looking good.  The previously mentioned Buhagiar, along with returning Senior LB Pompey Festejo, standout LB Keith Smith and Senior Tiuke Tuipolotu are a linebacker group that will only get better and scarier as the year goes on.  That group is really the strength of this defense.  The D-line will see Seniors defensive ends Joe Nigos and the return of Mohammed Marah (back from injury last year) lead on the front line.  They will be helped by defensive tackles Pablo Garcia, Anthony Larceval and JaRodd Watson.

In the secondary, returning Seniors Alex Germany, Peyton Thompson and Brandon Driver will lead as corners and will be helped out tremendously by standout Sophomore Bené Benwikere .  The Spartans will be especially blessed to have Safety Duke Ihenacho back from a season-long injury last year.  Ihenacho was a force to be reckoned with in his first 3 years, earning All-WAC honors in 2008 and 2009.  Look for him to be a factor again this year.

What is the one game on the schedule that you want to win the most this year?

This is a tough question.  Personally (from what I’ve gathered from SJSU fans so far) I would say that it’s a tie between Stanford and Fresno St, with Hawaii as a very close 3rd place.  Stanford and San Jose St had an annual rivalry game on hold last year due to SJSU’s opportunity to play Alabama for a very good payday.  This year the rivalry renews again (billed as the Bill Walsh Legacy game, due to his history with both Stanford and SJSU).  Andrew Luck, the country’s best QB in my opinion, will be tested without familiar Coach Jim Harbaugh.  New coach and former Offensive Coordinator David Shaw will demonstrate his ability to lead his team against SJSU on September 3 at the Farm.  Spartan fans are relishing at the opportunity to get to Luck in his last season as Stanford’s QB. 

The other game is Fresno St, due to SJSU’s storied rivalry with their WAC Conference mate.  Fresno St is leaving for the Mountain West next year and this will be SJSU’s final chance to beat Fresno while they are in the WAC.  Fresno has dominated this rivalry, much to the chagrin of SJSU fans.  It would be the sweetest feeling to send Fresno to the MWC with a loss to their in-state/conference rival one last time.

The Hawaii game, this year’s homecoming game for SJSU, is very much like the Fresno game.  Hawaii is also leaving for the Mountain West and they have had a history with SJSU since the inception of the WAC.  Much like the Fresno game, and it being SJSU’s homecoming, victory would be double sweet.

Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games for San Jose State this year?

The first two games of the year are probably not going to be true measurements of how much the team has improved from last year due to them being out of conference games.  The following two games are WAC teams and those WILL determine how much we have improved.  They are both home games and should measure any improvements that SJSU have made.  These games against a Colin Kaepernick-less Nevada and perennial cellar-dweller New Mexico St will be not only the most important games, but will also likely set the tone for how the rest of the season will likely turn out.

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

Realistically speaking, I believe the Spartans have the tools to win at least 4 games this season, with chances for 3 upsets this year.  I believe that many Spartan fans will consider it progress if we win 4 games and will be ecstatic if we win 6.  I share that view and I will predict a 4-8 season with the most optimistic prediction of 6-6.

 Next Preview: Army

2011 Team Previews

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston , SMU, Southern Mississippi

MAC- Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo , Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo

MWC- New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy , ULM

WAC- Idaho