San Jose State Starts Season with 45-14 Win Over Southern Utah

Photo Credit: Emily Van Buskirk

Welcome back San Jose!

That’s what it said under opponent Southern Utah’s name on the San Jose State football schedule page. Right next to the part where the Spartans planned to celebrate last year’s Mountain West Championship.

The mood was definitely celebratory Saturday night at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, Ca. as 16,204 fans flocked to the intimate, partially unfinished stadium to watch their Spartans defeat the Thunderbirds 45-14. Those loyal patrons were also part of a piece of San Jose State football history – the largest crowd since 2011.

Even the 90-degree weather and 154 Air Quality Index couldn’t stop the party, on the field or in the stands. Spartans students stormed the field, running from one endzone to the other as part of a new pre-game tradition instituted this season. Those who detest live mascot performances will no doubt be pleased.

Spurred by the student’s energy, the Spartans came out swinging behind 6th-year quarterback Nick Starkel, who scored his very first touchdown of the season just under three minutes into the game– a 1-yard scamper into the endzone that capped what would turn out to be a pretty routine 80-yard, 7-play in 2:34 SJSU scoring drive. In fact, the Spartans ended up averaging around two minutes per scoring drive which is a double-edged sword as Head Coach Brent Brennan acknowledged after the game.

“I never argue about scoring plays – however, you can get ‘em, we’ll take them,” chuckled Brennan. “I do think it puts stress on your defense but I feel like our coaching staff has done a good job of recruiting talented players where we have substitutes and we have more than one group that we feel great running out there.”

But importantly, was the exuberant head coach surprised when his QB1 scored his first touchdown of the season on the ground?

“Yes, I was,” replied Brennan. “I would prefer he handed that ball off. But in the football sense he made a good decision. It was good, it was great to see him do that and get in. Obviously, Nick has been a great addition to our team and him willing to sacrifice his body and pound it in like that was I think good for everyone to see. You can ask Tyler Nevens, he’s going to be on here in a second. He will tell you if he liked seeing it.”

So we did.

“No, I wasn’t,” responded Nevens. “Because the play before I got smacked. I got smacked by two defenders that pressed both C and D gap. So yeah. And we’ve been talking about it all week during practice too, me and Nick so I know he wanted to get one in. Stuff happens for a reason.”

All that’s left was to ask the man under center himself.

“I actually was surprised,” admitted Starkel. “We talked about it a little bit after the game, I was like ‘Nobody had that on their Bingo card, that’s for sure!’ I wouldn’t have even had it on my Bingo card. But the opportunity presented itself and I did what I was coached to do.”

The 6th-year signal-caller finished the night 16-27 for 397 yards and four touchdowns, plus two carries for three yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Starkel accounted for 77% of the Spartans’ points.

But no one achieves victory alone and the Arkansas transfer was in extremely good company. Starkel’s top targets included freshman wide receiver Charles Ross, who finished with three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown and veteran tight end Derrick Deese, who had three catches of his own for 72 yards and a TD. Senior running back Tyler Nevens added some balance with 12 carries for 91 yards and one touchdown, averaging 7.6 yards per carry.

Southern Utah made a push early in the second quarter with a little Philly Special play from wide receiver Judd Crockett to quarterback Justin Miller to give the T-Birds their first score. The Thunderbirds also capitalized on Starkel’s lone INT near the end of the first half as freshman cornerback Kobe Singleton ran it back for a score. But those points would be Southern Utah’s last as the Spartans defense shut down all remaining efforts, racking up a team total 34 tackles and one sack.

Southern Utah heads home to prepare for a tough bout at Arizona State next weekend in an equally scorching city.

San Jose State heads on the road to face a formidable Pac-12 South opponent in USC. While Brennan made it clear the Trojans haven’t been the focus until now, Nevens has been thinking about it for a while.

“Growing up in Socal, I used to sell lemonade drinks at the Coliseum, so I know what that stadiums is like,” said Nevens. “I always emphasized that me being an LA kid, yeah I want to play there. So next week is not only personal for me but personal for a lot of guys because not only are we trying to prove something to ourselves but we are trying to prove something as a team.”

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