With an off week looming before the conference opener against Utah State on Oct. 14, San Jose State's confidence is at a place the program hasn't been in years as they prepare to face San Diego State. Considering the Spartans' last bowl game was in 1990, the Spartans need this win to start thinking about that possibility.
The key to their 2-1 start, including a stunning victory over Stanford, has been turnovers. In three games, the Spartans are tied with USC and Western Michigan for the best turnover margin among Division I-A teams at plus-6.
"We work hard every day at trying to take the ball away," San Jose State coach Dick Tomey said. "We always have done that. If you win the turnover battle in the game, there is a very good chance you're going to win. Some years it appears you are taking it away more than other years. Right now, we are pleased with our efforts in that category."
After a tough 17-7 win last week against Cal Poly, the No. 3 Division I-AA program in the country, Tomey was quickly drawing up plans for San Diego State, which posted 52 points against the Spartans in a 31-point rout.
"Preparing for the San Diego State game on Saturday is much like how we prepare for every game," Tomey said. "We prepare for every game very much the same way. You do so much of your preparation in fall camp, and spring practice. Once you get into the season, your practice time is very short. We have to do a great job in meetings, and try to put together a plan that isn't too complicated. Everybody you play usually knows what you are going to do. You're usually not going to surprise many people.
"The biggest thing we have to understand is that this is the same team that was much better than we were a year ago. They have a lot of the same people back, and we have to be able to believe that we can win."
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The running attack has been carrying the offense since the season-opening loss to Washington. RB Yonus Davis is fourth in the conference with 99.3 rushing yards per game.
"Yonus Davis did another great job for us on Saturday," San Jose State coach Dick Tomey said. "We can't talk about him, however, without talking about Patrick Perry. Patrick is averaging 6 yards per carry, and has done some tremendous things for us. We are very fortunate to have both of them healthy. They each give us a weapon in the backfield.
"Yonus has such an ability to make people miss. When he can attack the hole with his shoulders square, and then have the ability to go inside or outside in an instant, it's something you can't teach. The best backs are power runners who can grind on you for 60 minutes, or guys that can make you miss. We feel we have two guys that can do both of those things."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Since allowing Stanford 34 points in the first half on Sept. 9, the defense has been superb, allowing one touchdown in six quarters since.
"Guys are starting to trust each other on defense," Tomey said. "We have a lot of young guys playing on defense. There are more freshmen playing defense for us than at any other time that I have seen in coaching. We also have some guys that are playing big-time college football for the first time.
"They are learning to play together, and getting better is a process, especially with all of the youth we have. We have improved so much from our opening game against Washington. To play good defense, you have to have a passion to defend your own goal line. We have to take it as a personal thing when teams move the ball on us.
"We can't get too excited just yet, because we haven't exactly played an offensive juggernaut yet. We will play some very good offensive teams down the road, and they will be a great test for our young defense."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All we have to do for motivation is throw in the tape from last season. I can promise you we will not be overconfident coming into Saturday. Their backs are against the wall at 0-3, but our backs have to stay against the wall. That's the mindset that we have to have in this game. We have to play with a sense of urgency. We will not beat anybody if we do not play our absolute best. I think our guys understand that we have to improve every day, otherwise we are not going to win many games." -- San Jose State coach Dick Tomey on San Diego State
THIS WEEK'S GAME: San Diego State at San Jose State, Sept. 30 -- Last season, San Diego State had slammed the Spartans 52-21. That's the most points allowed by San Jose State under coach Dick Tomey.
"They beat us very bad last year," Tomey said. "I don't think we have beaten them in over 30 years. They are 0-3, but they were also winless when they kicked our butt last year. We just hope that we have improved enough since last year that we are able to compete with them, and hopefully come out with another victory."
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Adam Tafralis -- Slated to back up junior college transfer Sean Flynn, Tafralis was handed the job Flynn was injured in fall camp. Tafralis has been solid, and it's all but impossible for Tomey to yank him now, though Flynn may see a few series this week.
WR/PR James Jones -- He earned WAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after averaging 23.3 yards on three kick returns against Cal Poly, including a 49-yarder.
LB Matt Castelo -- The foundation of the defense. He needs to set the tone early as one of two returning starters from the team that gave up 52 points to San Diego State last year, and make sure it doesn't happen again.
ROSTER REPORT: DT Freddy McCutcheon (dislocated kneecap) has begun workouts but with a bye following Saturday's game, he probably won't make his season debut until the WAC opener against Utah State on Oct. 14. He was expected to be a starter before suffering the injury in fall camp.
QB Chad Bozzo took part in a scrimmage Sunday, his first action since undergoing surgery on his right shoulder. The redshirt freshman suffered a torn labrum against San Diego State last season.
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