Spartan Notes: San Jose State’s Larceval wins courage award from FWAA for comeback from illness

San Jose State defensive end Anthony Larceval was picked by the Football Writers Association of America for its courage award this year, after he battled back from a viral infection that could have ended his career to play in nine games this season.

The redshirt senior was hospitalized at the end of last year with viral meningoencephalitis, and doctors told him his football career was over. He was able to battle back to play this season. He is the second San Jose State player to win the award, following Neil Parry in 2003.

He will be honored at a banquet at the Orange Bowl in January.

For more: Spartan Athletics release on Larceval’s award.

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Week 14 MWC football picks: Utah State, Boise State battle to end for Mountain division

Breaking down who I think is going to win in this weekend’s Mountain West football games.

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MWC men’s hoops power rankings: UNLV disappoints, Spartans in last to start

UNLV was picked to finish at or near the top of the Mountain West by almost everyone, but the luster of those predictions seems like a long, long time ago.

The Rebels are 2-3 to open the season, not really putting up much of a fight against stronger competition they were supposed to go toe-to-toe with, and losing badly to two teams that no business coming to the Thomas and Mack Center and doing such things.

UNLV is lucky one of those games didn’t count.

San Jose State has won two in a row with a strong win over Pepperdine. It still isn’t enough to get them out of the rankings early doldrums.

Here are this week’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball rankings for the first few weeks of the season.

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MWC Roundup: ‘Ice cream fixes everything’ for San Jose State edition

935_-mountain_west_conference-primary-2011San Jose State coach Rob Caragher has stolen a page out of the kindergarten handbook in an attempt to lighten the dour mood around the South Campus.

After a lifeless performance in a loss to Nevada on Saturday,  he decided to bring some levity to this week’s practices by having the fat guys on the offensive and defensive line participate in a kicking contest, with ice cream as the prize.

It ended in a tie, so everyone got sweets, writes Jimmy Durkin of the Mercury News. It makes the players take their mind off the task at hand at least, but it doesn’t necessarily fix the fact that the Spartans let the last really good opportunity to wrap up a bowl berth escape and run for a touchdown.

Now, it means having to do it against a 6-4 Navy team that runs the ball as well as anyone or an undefeated Fresno State program that is firing on all cylinders.

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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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Saturday Preview: Spartans look to earn bowl eligibility against lowly Nevada

san_jose_stateNevada dominated its series with San Jose State for years, winning nine of the last 10 meetings. The Spartans only win was at home in 2007, and didn’t hurt the Wolf Pack’s bowl chances.

How the tables have been turned. This year, it’s the Spartans with something to lose against a struggling Nevada team. Usually, it’s the other way around.

Nevada has lost five straight and has just three wins in Brian Polian’s first year as coach of the Wolf Pack, and those wins against a mediocre FCS UC Davis team and two teams in the doldrums of the Mountain West (over winless Hawaii and a close call with two-win Air Force.)

This year’s struggles prove that no one other than Chris Ault can lead them to a bowl game. Only once in the last 23 years has anyone other than the legend Ault led the Wolf Pack to a bowl game, and that was Jeff Tisdel in 1996 with a team Ault assembled.

San Jose State is seeking to make a second straight bowl game for the first time since Claude Gilbert led the Spartans to back-to-back California Bowls in 1986 and 1987.

Here are five things to watch in Saturday’s game at Mackay Stadium in Reno at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

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Football predictions, Week 12: Three teams seek bowl eligibility, get cupcakes

935_-mountain_west_conference-primary-2011Colorado State, San Diego State and San Jose State can all reach the pivotal six-win mark this week by performing coup de gras on teams from the Mountain West’s doldrums.

The Spartans face a Nevada team that hasn’t won in five weeks and is hurting on both sides of the ball. The Aztecs face a winless Hawaii team that will at least have the benefit of looking pretty in throwbacks while likely getting nailed to the wall on Saturday. Colorado State’s run-stopping defense has to love seeing a team that can do only one thing right: run the ball.

This will be the week the conference finally shakes out its bowl teams from its bad teams.

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