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.
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.