In order to better acquaint K-State fans with this week's opponent, the San Jose State Spartans, I contacted Laurence Miedema. Miedema is a sportswriter with the San Jose Mercury, and is in Manhattan this week covering the Spartans. I posed a few questions to him, and he was gracious enough to answer them. You can visit the Mercury sports page here, and check out Miedema's latest article on the Spartans here. Enjoy!
1. For fan familiarity, tell us what kind of offense and defense SJSU runs. Also, who is one player on each side of the ball K-State fans need to keep their eyes on?
The Spartans use a lot of different looks on offense, employing anywhere from two to five receivers and often running the option, but almost all of the plays start out of the shotgun. As far as personnel to watch, senior quarterback Adam Tafralis threw 21 touchdowns with seven interceptions last season and had the most efficient season for a SJSU quarterback ever, but he also had two NFL-bound receivers to throw to. Tafralis and most of the line are back from last season, but the offense needs someone else to step up because the receiving corps is entirely new and struggled in the opener and the running game is hurting. Yonus Davis, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, won't play this weekend because of a sprained ankle he sustained on the first play of the Arizona State game and the top backup suffered a season-ending knee injury the week of the opener. As a result, SJSU managed just 40 rushing yards in the opener.
Defensively, the Spartans run the double-eagle flex that Coach Dick Tomey made famous at Arizona -- remember Desert Swarm? SJSU returns most of the group that last season was one of the best defenses in the Western Athletic Conference and allowed fewer than 21 points per game. The marquee guy is cornerback Dwight Lowery, who went from unknown JC transfer in camp last fall into a first-team All-American who tied for the most interceptions in the nation. Lowery made most of the preseason All-American lists and could be a late-first round draft pick next spring. Middle linebacker Matt Castelo is smallish -- 5-10, 230 -- but he led the nation in tackles last season and, not surprisingly, seems to be in on every play. The line is young -- seven sophomores -- and getting pressure on the QB has been an issue since last season.
2. Last year, the Spartans went 9-4. This year began with a thud against Arizona State. Was that game an unexpected aberration, or were there offseason issues for SJSU?
The 9-4 record last season, which included the first bowl appearance (and win) in 16 years put SJSU back on the map -- they had eight wins the previous three seasons combined. Although it was a great story, the schedule wasn't nearly as difficult as this season, and there may have been some players who took last season's success for granted. The 42-point loss at Arizona State was unexpected because the Spartans were completely manhandled physically, something that you rarely see with a Tomey team, and have typically been competitive since he arrived three years ago. This is a team that last season lost to Boise State on the final play of the game. Some of the struggles last week could be chalked up to youth and inexperience. At one point the offense had eight players on the field at the same time that were in their first D-I game. Losing Davis, the tailback, on the first offensive play of the season also was a tough one to take.
3. Starting running back and 1,000 yard rusher Yonus Davis is apparently out for this game. How does this affect SJSU's offensive game plan?
Losing Davis is a huge blow, magnified by the loss of the top backup, but SJSU wants to run the ball. Tafralis, the quarterback, led the team with 19 rushing yards last week. There are three or four guys who will line up at tailback, but the biggest impact could come from a guy who started at safety last week. Sophomore Dominique Hunsucker, one of the top prep running backs in Northern California, this week moved back to RB from safety (they wanted him on the field as much as possible and felt he wouldn't play much at RB behind Davis and the backup this season). He probably won't start, but he could play a lot.
4. What's your prediction for this game?
SJSU is coming off the most lopsided defeat since Tomey arrived three years ago, so there should be a bounceback this week. How that translates on the field will be interesting to see, because this might be the best team SJSU has played during the Tomey era. My guess is KSU 35, SJSU 10