UW-San Jose State football key to the game; other notes and quotes

Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s top key to the game for the Wyoming Cowboys in their homecoming game at 2 p.m. today against San Jose State at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium:

Possess the ball — and finish: Wyoming wants to wear teams down in the fourth quarter. To do that, it must possess the ball and finish drives. Even when the Cowboys can’t do that, they need to avoid a lot of three-and-outs and flip field position in the punt game. UW has a slight edge in time of possession this season at 30 minutes, 50 seconds, but it needs that figure to be around 34 or 35 minutes.

Yes, no? What do you think about this one?

Here is Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph’s preview for today’s game.


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UW-San Jose State football Q&A swap

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer swap with Jimmy Durkin, who covers San Jose State football for the San Jose Mercury News in San Jose, California.

Follow on Twitter: @Jimmy_Durkin

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

One of the most noticeable improvements for San Jose State is defensively. It entered last week’s games leading the Mountain West in passing defense and total defense. Where has the biggest improvement been and how much better, overall, is the Spartans’ defense?

The biggest improvement is coaching. Greg Robinson is a huge upgrade over the inexperienced and overmatched Kenwick Thompson, who last year chose to make San Jose State’s players adapt to his defense, rather than him adapting his scheme to the skills of the players.

Beyond that, the Spartans have what can pretty easily be described as the best secondary in the Mountain West. Cleveland Wallace III is a transfer from Washington and teams with Jimmy Pruitt at cornerback to give SJSU two players who can lock on in man coverage. True freshman Maurice McKnight is the free safety in nickel situations and is another shutdown man coverage defender and great open field tackler. The group is brought together by senior Forrest Hightower, who has turned into a great support man in the run game and is making plays in the pass game as well. With a couple good linebackers in Christian Tago and Vince Buhagiar and a potential NFL draft pick in defensive tackle Travis Raciti, it’s just an overall solid group and has been brought together by a veteran, experience defensive coordinator in Robinson — the two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos.

 

How has the change at quarterback to Joe Gray helped or hindered the Spartans, and is he the guy for San Jose State moving forward?

It’s helped quite a bit. While the competition may not be equal, the difference in numbers are staggering. SJSU is averaging 494 yards per game in the two games with Gray as the starter and just 326.3 when Blake Jurich was in charge. Sure, Jurich had to face Auburn and Minnesota, but he also got to face FCS North Dakota.

I think the players feel more confident in Gray. He was the presumed starter all along. He looked to have won the job in spring, spent all summer as the presumed starter and then Jurich won it with a good fall. Gray’s a much more polished passer, has better pocket presence and is much calmer under pressure.

 

How would you assess this San Jose State team so far. With the West Division of the Mountain West up for grabs, are the Spartans a contender for the division title?

I can’t come up with a reason why not. They actually could end up being the most complete team in the West Division. They play defense, something the conference as a whole isn’t exactly known for. And they’ve got an improving offense settling in under a quarterback who at one point was bound for the Pac-12 (Gray committed to Washington while in high school). Add in the factor that, for whatever reason, nobody is really looking at them as a contender outside of San Jose, and I think they could be a dangerous sleeper candidate to win the West. As we all know, it’s a pretty mediocre conference this year and yet somebody has to win it. The loss to Nevada two weeks ago doesn’t help. Had they held on to their 10-7 fourth-quarter lead and won that game, I think we’d definitely be calling them the favorite right now.

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 6

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of his Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 6 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Nevada (3-1 overall, 1-0 MW): The Wolf Pack didn’t jump from No. 2 to No. 1 just because of its 21-10 road win at San Jose State, but it also has allowed the fewest points of any MW team this season (77). Throw in dual-threat quarterback Cody Fajardo and, at least right now, Nevada is at the top. This week: vs. Boise State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). We should see how good Nevada is this week. Boise State is will be mad and motivated after a road loss at Air Force. Going to go with the road team in a close one. Boise State 24, Nevada 21.

2. Colorado State (3-1, 0-1): An impressive 24-21 win at Boston College last week. The Rams lead the conference in total offense (492 ypg) and are second in scoring (32 ppg). A couple of key starters a banged up this week — including quarterback Garrett Grayson, but it won’t matter much this week. This week: vs. Tulsa, 1 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Network — online only). The Rams’ impressive offensive numbers should climb and they will win their third straight game. Colorado State 38, Tulsa 16.

3. Air Force (3-1, 1-1): One of the biggest moves up this week. Not many saw the Falcons’ 28-14 home win over Boise State coming. Air Force leads the MW in scoring (33.2 ppg) and is third in scoring defense (21.2 ppg). Maybe the biggest surprise is it is seventh nationally in rushing defense (82.2 ypg). This week: vs. Navy, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). This game should decide the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy winner this year. Again, going with the road team here in a close one. Navy 27, Air Force 23.

4. San Diego State (2-2, 1-0): An expected 34-17 home win over UNLV last week, but let’s see if the Aztecs can go on the road this week in league play and win. SDSU also will start a true freshman quarterback in Nick Bawden. Its stay in the top four may not last long — or could it? This week: at Fresno State, 8 p.m. MT Friday (CBSSN). For some reason I like road teams this week. I think the Aztecs will play good enough defense to make Fresno throw the ball more, which is not a good thing. San Diego State 28, Fresno State 20.

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 5

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of his Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 5 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Boise State (3-1 overall, 1-0 MW): The Broncos remain a solid No. 1, They have won three straight since their season-opening loss to Ole Miss, and have outscored their opponents 104-54 during that time. This week: at Air Force, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). Boise State may have some issues with Air Force, but in the end the Broncos will be too physical and talented. Look for another big game from junior running back Jay Ajayi, who leads the MW with 494 yards and five touchdowns. Boise State 34, Air Force 21.

2. Nevada (2-1, 0-0): The Wolf Pack was off last week, and is the only team in the West Division with a winning record. An improved defense and senior quarterback Cody Fajardo should make Nevada the favorite in that division moving forward. This week: at San Jose State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). A game Nevada needs to win if it is going to be a factor in the West Division. Nevada 38, San Jose State 24.

3. Colorado State (2-1, 0-1): The Rams also were off last week, but the play of other teams in the league last week moved them up a couple of spots. Senior quarterback Garrett Grayson leads the MW with 331 passing yards per game, and with 332 yards of total offense per contest. This week: at Boston College, 10:30 a.m. MT Saturday (ROOT). The Rams make the long trip across the country to face a B.C. squad that beat USC at home a couple of weeks ago. This trip won’t end well for CSU. Boston College 27, Colorado State 13.

4. Wyoming (3-1, 1-0): All three of the Cowboys’ wins have been at home and by a combined 10 points. Two were come-from behind wins. You’ve got to admire the never-quit attitude, but things have to improve, especially on offense, moving forward as the Pokes average just 17 points per game. This week: at No. 9 Michigan State, 10 a.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2). Both teams run similar schemes offensively and defensively, but Michigan State does it much better. Michigan State 42, Wyoming 10.

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