If coach Brady Hoke has his way, No. 24 San Diego State won’t take anything for granted Friday night at San Jose State.
“Look at Nevada, they beat Boise State last week and then Boise State beat BYU today,” Hoke said Saturday night after the Aztecs’ 31-7 win over New Mexico in Carson, Calif. “It tells you how good the Mountain West is and what kind of football teams we’re going to have to face in the future.”
What Saturday night also revealed is that the Aztecs (5-0, 1-0 MW) are equipped to win every game with a good running game and a solid defense but must go into each contest wondering just what they’ll get out of the quarterback position.
The Lobos, even with former San Diego State head coach Rocky Long as their defensive coordinator, don’t possess anything resembling top-ranked Georgia’s defense. However, for long stretches, New Mexico made the Aztecs’ offense look pedestrian.
Aztecs quarterback Jordon Brookshire is a capable runner but has completed just 28 of 57 passes for 389 yards in three games played. Backup Lucas Johnson is accurate (27 of 46) but doesn’t have a big arm (only 196 yards).
Brookshire was only 11 of 24 for 130 yards against New Mexico, and it took work to get there. He started the game 3 of 11.
“Jordon got himself out of a rut,” Hoke said. “He did a good job getting himself in a good place from a fundamental standpoint.”
A mediocre passing game hasn’t mattered yet. Greg Bell (520 rushing yards, five scores) would be welcome in a lot of Power 5 locker rooms as a starter, and San Diego State makes big plays on defense. The Aztecs have 18 sacks and seven interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, San Jose State (3-3, 1-1) hasn’t been able to follow up last year’s breakthrough with the kind of success it was hoping for, dropping to .500 with a 32-14 loss Saturday at Colorado State.
The Spartans have been hurt by a combination of injuries and turnovers. Quarterback Nick Starkel (left arm) has missed the past two games. Backup Nick Nash starred in a 37-31 win over New Mexico State and tossed three touchdown passes, but was just 11 of 22 for 154 passing yards with an interception last weekend against the Rams.
Starkel’s status for Friday night wasn’t known since coach Brent Brennan doesn’t discuss injuries, but it’s a certainty that Brennan would like to see his team come out on top in the turnover battle. The Spartans have coughed up 13 through six games and forced only three.
“We are still a work in progress,” Brennan said. “I guess you could say we are still very much like a Silicon Valley startup.”
If San Jose State can take care of the ball, it might have a chance to pull off the upset. The Spartans possess one of the top tight ends on the West Coast in Derrick Deese Jr., who has 11 catches and two touchdowns over the past two games.
The Aztecs own a 22-20-2 lead in the all-time series, although the Spartans’ 28-17 win last year in Carson snapped a seven-game losing streak.
–Field Level Media