Riley Nelson was leading a late 4th quarter charge against a Spartans team that hadn't scored since the second quarter. After leading a touchdown drive with just under 3 minutes remaining, the Cougars lined up for an improbable on-side kick--and recovered it. The Cougars took over at the 47 yard line and drove to the San Jose State 21. The drive included a 4th and 9 conversion and 3 completions to Cody Hoffman. Cougar nation was excited, and the San Jose State faithful were sitting in stunned silence.
Then, Riley Nelson fumbled the ball for the third time (one was recovered by Skyler Ridley), and the Spartans recovered it to seal the win. Here's a look back at our keys to the game to see what went right for the Cougars, and what didn't.
Stop David Fales.
The San Jose State quarterback was in fine form, throwing 25/34 for 305 yards, 3 TDs and an INT. Perhaps the only positive here is that Fales was held to only 3 touchdown passes. After scoring on his first three drives, he was unable to score the rest of the game. Grade: D-
BYU Secondary vs. SJSU Receivers
Obviously Fales had a bit to do with this, but the San Jose State receiving corp made catch after catch, and seemed unstoppable. Noel Grigsby had 8 receptions for 132 yards and 2 TDs. The rest of the group came up with 173 more yards and another TD, with many big plays over the top. Daniel Sorensen did come up with an interception for the Cougars, which was the only Spartan turnover. Grade: D+
Score on offense.
On three consecutive drives between the third and fourth quarters, the Cougars turned over the ball inside the San Jose State 30 yard line. A missed Spartan PAT and a late on-side kick recovery by the Cougars gave hope for a 21-20 victory, but the Cougars simply could not overcome their own 3 turnovers (plus two more failed 4th down attempts). Fourteen points is well below the team goal of 24 per game. Grade: C-, if only because of the hope they provided at the end.
What we know about San Jose State (9-2)
They could be the WAC champions if not for a loss to Utah State. The Aggies would have to lose to the Idaho Vandals next week to give the Spartans any hope, and that's not likely to happen. In addition to that, San Jose State has another stiff test next weekend, as they take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who are also 9-2. The Bulldogs feature the #1 scoring offense in the nation, at 52.3 points per game. Their only losses are a 2 point loss to Texas A&M and a 48-41 OT loss to Utah State. So the Spartans have no easy path to a ten-win season, but they've shown all season long that they're more than capable of winning.
What we know about BYU (6-5)
The Cougars are around 4 plays shy of being 10-1 right now. Instead, offensive ineptitude and inconsistency has left BYU with a top-ten defense and nothing to show for it besides bowl eligibility built on wins over inferior competition. The Cougars wrap up the regular season on the road next week at New Mexico State.