Spartan Notes: San Jose State WR Jones earns honorable mention on SI all-America team

Chandler Jones turned a 15-touchdown, 79-catch season into a spot on the honorable mention list for Sports Illustrated’s All-America team, the only San Jose State player to land on the team. The Mountain West landed a slough of honorable mentions from the magazine, but no actual spots on the first or second team.

Check out the team here.

The long and short of it: David Fales got snubbed. Again.

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Spartan Notes: Fales wins lots of awards, sees draft stock go up

san_jose_stateDavid Fales is starting to get a lot of attention.

The senior quarterback is winning all the awards this week. The list seems to go to 11 so far. Such are the accolades for knocking off everyone’s favorite — and most overrated — BCS buster in Fresno State.

On top of that, Charles Davis of NFL.com sees the senior quarterback zipping up draft boards also.

In other San Jose State football news …

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How they wrote it: San Jose State’s upset win over Fresno State

Enjoy this one, guys. You did what no one else in the Mountain West could do this year: beat the Bulldogs.

Enjoy this one, guys. You did what no one else in the Mountain West could do this year: beat the Bulldogs.

Links to the different stories from around the state on Friday’s 62-52 shootout upset win by San Jose State over No. 16 Fresno State.

Preview: First battle for the Valley Cup for more than bragging rights

san_jose_stateA month ago, Friday’s San Jose State-Fresno State showdown had all the trappings of a classic. San Jose State appeared to be cruising through conference with big wins over Wyoming and Colorado State. Fresno State was everyone’s favorite BCS buster.

Much has changed in a month. San Jose State blew a double-digit lead to San Diego State and has yet to find its swagger, especially on defense. Fresno State’s schedule has been shown to be weak, as Rutgers and Boise State flounder; its BCS ranking has suffered as a result. A month ago, this looked like it would be for the Western division crown, as well as the newly minted Valley Cup.

It’s for much less now, but still a lot.

San Jose State isn’t even bowl eligible, and must beat the Bulldogs to even have a prayer at a postseason. Fresno State’s BCS hopes can die with a loss Friday or the following week in the Mountain West championship game. One play can be the difference between a trip to Phoenix with all the trimmings, or a disappointing slog to Las Vegas. One score could be the difference between more than $10 million for the Bulldogs.

So, yeah, a lot is riding on Friday’s game.

Here are five things to follow for the 77th meeting between the two schools and the first for the Valley Cup:

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David Fales numbers are down this year; Why?

David Fales stats are down across the board, but it's probably not because he's regressed.

David Fales stats are down across the board, but it’s probably not because he’s regressed.

David Fales reached two team records as the Spartans get set to take on Navy on Friday evening. When he hit 155 passing yards in the game, he passed Adam Tafralis’ career mark for passing yards for a quarterback. When he threw his second touchdown in the third quarter, passed Steve Clarkson’s nearly 30-year-old passing TD record for a career.

And yet, it was all hollow, because the Spartans didn’t win, and it was an interception — his 13th of the season — that helped sink the ship.

Fales has not been the contributor he was last year despite some absolutely mind blowing performances, when he helped put himself and the Spartans on the map with an 11-2 season, a top-25 ranking in the final AP poll and a win in the Military Bowl. He was the NCAA’s most accurate passer last year, completing well over 70 percent of his passes. In the final year of the WAC, he was its best quarterback in a competition that wasn’t even close.

By no means is he having a bad season, especially by San Jose State standards. But the preseason predictions and hyperbole of Fales and his team of receivers carrying the Spartans to the promised land were off. All of the numbers are down this season: TDs are down, passing yards are down, completion percentage is also down. He had already surpassed last year’s total for interceptions before Friday’s loss to Navy.

Here are his stats side by side from last year and this year.

Passing
Year School Conf Class Pos Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
*2012 San Jose State WAC JR QB 327 451 72.5 4193 9.3 9.9 33 9 170.8
2013 San Jose State MWC SR QB 275 442 62.2 3642 8.2 8.1 27 13 145.7
Career San Jose State 602 893 67.4 7835 8.8 9.0 60 22 158.4

Statistics don’t tell everything, though. Fales has looked better mechanically, and the changes instituted this year made by Rob Caragher and his staff may not have been conducive to winning games (particularly on defense, which is well beyond Fales and the offense’s control), but he’s looked better mechanically. When given time, which isn’t alway the case, his passing ability has dramatically improved. He looks like he’s also seeing the field better and going through progressions.

So, what’s happened? Here are some of the things that may have hurt him this year, emphasizing that one gets no more weight than the other:

  • The competition is better: The last year of the WAC does not compare in any way to the Mountain West, which is full of familiar — and better — opponents. The Spartans effectively replaced UTSA, Texas State, Idaho and New Mexico State, all mediocre teams last year, with Minnesota, UNLV, Wyoming and Fresno State. With the exception of Wyoming, all feature better defenses and all are better teams than the four listed last year. Fales could dissect easier opponents much of last season, but this year hasn’t afforded him such an opportunity. Perhaps we as fans and journalists overestimated what he could do because of the competition.
  • The pressure has been greater because the defense is bad: Last year, the Spartans’ defense was serviceable. It could get a stop, and was able to force turnovers. This year, there are good players, but the defense is a terrible unit. It comes back to poor coaching — Yes, I’m calling out defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson — and youth. The Spartans defense was going to take a step back this year, and fans knew that, but they look like the couldn’t stop a high school football team this year. That has meant the Spartans have needed their offense to respond each time they get the ball; they never get the benefit of being ahead. And that has probably affected Fales negatively this year.
  • Injuries have hurt the offense: San Jose State lost Tyler Ervin for the season earlier this year, and they got lucky because freshman Jarred Lawson proved to be just as good in the backfield. Chandler Jones missed significant time, and Noel Grigsby was lost for the season in the first few games. The replacements have been largely inexperienced and young, and don’t have the rapport with the senior quarterback as the veterans do.
  • The offense is taking more chances down field with mixed results: The one stat David Fales is leading the Mountain West in this year? Yards per completion. The Spartans are taking more chances down field, a high risk, high reward proposition that seems to blow up in their face often when they end up going three-and-out or losing the ball on a turnover. Coach Rob Caragher and offensive coordinator Jimmy Daugherty made a big deal of installing a pro-style offense this year, but what it feels like they meant is running the ball punctuated by telling Tyler Winston or Chandler Jones to go long in an effort to help the Spartans keep in games (especially with the defense doing the equivalent of watching from the stands this November.)

Fales stock has fallen a little this year when it comes to the NFL draft. CBS Sports projects him as a fourth or fifth round pick this year, the 155th best prospect and the 12th best quarterback. Earlier this season, the projections were much more optimistic. He can bring some of that optimism back when the senior all-star games and draft combine roll around.

The senior quarterback is going to leave San Jose State as the best at that position statistically in the school’s history, and has likely penned only the first few chapters of his football career.

Sunday Morning Quarterback: Navy’s Reynolds puts on one-man show against SJSU

This was a common occurrence on Friday night. (AP)

This was a common occurrence on Friday night. (AP)

What happened to San Jose State’s bowl hopes? They got spiked in the end zone by Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Seven. Times.

Navy’s dual threat quarterback put on a one-man show worthy of Broadway on Friday night at Spartan Stadium in front of a national TV audience. He didn’t have to pass, or really, pitch the ball to his running backs. Most of the time, he just kept it for himself and took off. Who was going to stop him? No one, apparently.

Defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson talked a good game earlier this week to Jimmy Durkin of the Mercury News about following assignments when defending Navy’s triple option, something that was totally lost on the one assigned to follow Reynolds. He kept the ball more often than not (36 of 62 of Navy’s plays started and ended with the ball in his hands), and wasn’t contested. Especially in overtime, when, you know, contesting him would have been advantageous.

Still, he almost proved to be Navy’s worst enemy by running in his fourth touchdown when it might have been better for him to take a dive not unlike San Jose State coach Rob Caragher asked his defense to do. The Spartans’ coach told them to do it to preserve some time – 2:38 all told – for the offense to try to get a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game. The sophomore quarterback walked right into the trap by scoring, and gave the Spartans new life …

… Which the defense promptly squandered with an embarrassing performance in overtime.

The loss all but kills the Spartans bowl hopes after entering the season with so much promise. They still have a shot, but they are going to need a win against a great Fresno State team next week that is destroying bad defenses. Then, they need to hope they win the beauty pageant that is the picking system since there are likely to be seven teams eligible.

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Sunday Morning Quarterback: Spartans left in the dust by Nevada’s offense

Anyone watching Saturday night’s mauling in Reno could have legitimately asked which teams was nearly bowl eligible and which one wasn’t. And, if they didn’t know anything about the two teams, they would have been wrong.

Nevada — 3-7 entering the game — humiliated the Spartans in the second half thanks to a defense that proved to be surprisingly resilient in a 38-16 win. The Spartans didn’t score in the second half as Nevada poured on an additional 17 points to turn a win into a rout.

“I feel like we probably underestimated them,” SJSU linebacker Keith Smith told the Mercury News’ Jimmy Durkin.

Ya think?

Nevada had nothing to play for, their bowl hopes officially dashed last week with a loss to Colorado State. They were riding a five game losing streak, and new coach Brian Polian was busily confirming the suspicion that no one other than Chris Ault could lead that program to a bowl game. San Jose State was one win from a likely bowl game, and taking care of business meant they could exhale heading into two tough contests to close out the season, knowing that they were already bowl eligible.

It looks like they exhaled too early, and got left in the dust by a Nevada team that was all too eager to turn Saturday’s game into a track meet.

San Jose State’s defense let them down in the first half by not being able to solve Nevada’s running game or stop the Wolf Pack’s gimpy quarterback Cody Fajardo. Rather than come out and attempt to make a go of it in the second half after trailing by five at the half, rolled over in one of the most embarrassing displays by this team since the end of the Dick Tomey era.

This one is more on the offense than the defense: Remember, Wyoming hung 44 on the Spartans and still won. Other teams finally also kept pace with San Jose State — Colorado State and to a lesser degree Hawaii — because the Spartans defense just wasn’t up to stopping them.

That being said, San Jose State had made a living by outscoring opponents: 51 against Wyoming, 34 against Colorado State, 37 on Hawaii. This year’s San Jose State team is just built to do that really out of necessity, and when the offense flops around like a dying fish pulled from the water, it makes a loss inevitable.

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