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Opponent preview: SJSU in right place at right time

OBNUG’s game previews are written by reader-turned-contributor Stephen Grettenberg. Because not every article should contain pinings for Marty Tadman.

Boise State vs. San Jose State

San Jose State is having a respectable season but have not really bought in to the media hype of being in first place in the WAC standings (3-0 in the WAC vs. BSUs 2-0). They are 3-0 at home though (15-2 at home in their last 17), and they are well aware that an upset victory at home over Boise State might bring them a WAC championship and a rare bit of glory.

As such, they are quietly looking at this game as though it was their bowl game, or their season. San Jose State has a history of playing Boise State close on their own turf, and it would be a mistake to take them lightly. Their two losses were both road losses to BCS-conference teams.

San Jose State has a pretty solid defense, but struggles offensively. They use their punting game to pin a team down inside the twenty if they can – sometimes at distances Kyle Brotzman would kick a field goal at. Their special teams do a good job of coverage, returns, and have forced turnovers.

Boise State’s win at San Jose State in 2006 was one of the closest games all year, and you can bet some players remember it. Ian Johnson suffered his lung injury at San Jose and had this to say recently, "I want to leave something more than just my lung this time. I want to leave it all on the field, but come back healthy, 100 percent and with another win."

I expect there to be some hard hitting, with both teams laying some serious hits on defense.

San Jose on Offense:

San Jose State has been struggling offensively, ranking dead last in the WAC in yards gained per game despite being 3-0 in the WAC. They have scored the most when being set up by the defense.

People really like to talk about the Spartans defense, so even in the local media there is not a lot of press given to the offense. They run a no-huddle spread type of offense often, one that should look familiar as Boise State has faced similar offenses all season long.

QB Kyle Reed started the season as a third-string quarterback but has owned the job since coming off the bench to win the opener at UC Davis. He has been gradually improving, but suffered a setback last week against NM State by throwing three interceptions. Fortunately for San Jose, Chase Holbrook returned the favor, but I don’t believe BSU’s Kellen Moore will be nearly so accommodating. Reed also runs, which helps fans turn the other way when he throws interceptions – he has thrown seven interceptions and six touchdowns. This is a good chance for Brandyn Thompson to pad his newfound status as an interception man after Hawaii.

San Jose State has 1,337 yards passing and 837 yards rushing, but I would not be surprised to see San Jose making an effort to run against the Broncos. It was the run that keyed their win last week against New Mexico State. Senior RB Yonus Davis has been inconsistent, but has rushed for 457 yards with a 5.0 yard average. His freshman RB mate, Brandon Rutley, has 240 yards with a 5.2 yard average. San Jose State only has one receiver with over 200 yards because they like to utilize a lot of players. Senior WR David Richmond does have 419 yards and two touchdowns receiving, along with 37 yards rushing on four carries.

Overall I don’t expect the San Jose State offense to be able to score any better than Boise State’s last few opponents. Their defense is another story.

San Jose State on Defense:

There are two respectable defenses in the WAC – Boise State’s and San Jose State’s. Boise State is first in the WAC and 6th 2nd in the nation in scoring defense, with San Jose State a respectable 2nd in the WAC and 29th overall. In total defense however, San Jose State leads the way being 1st in the WAC and 25th in the nation, while Boise State is 2nd (59th overall). San Jose State also leads the WAC in sacks and takeaways.

The defense is the pride of the team, and they scored two touchdowns and set up the others last week. They racked up six sacks and forced four turnovers against New Mexico State, allowing the team to win 31-14 despite QB Kyle Reed’s abysmal day passing. San Jose State also had good special teams play covering kicks.

A pair of brothers are doing a good job: Junior DE Carl Ihenacho has seven sacks and 14 tackles for a loss (tied for national lead), and sophomore LB Duke Ihenacho has five interceptions. Not only is Duke tied for the national lead in interceptions, he has returned one for a touchdown in each of his last two games. You can bet Kellen Moore is looking at tape on both of them pretty carefully.

I expect the offense to be able to score on this defense, but it needs to be very careful of not giving away the ball to fumbles and interceptions.

The Game:

For only the second time this year the Broncos appear to be facing a living and breathing opponent capable of making it a close game. Despite San Jose State’s strong record at home, I expect Boise State to win. I don’t expect it to be a cakewalk though, and the Spartans realize a victory against Boise State in this game would be the biggest of their careers. I expect them to come out and try to make Boise State prove they are the bad dogs of the WAC. Boise State will prove it, but it won’t come easy.

The pick:

Boise State by a touchdown.