What we learned from San Jose State’s 59-3 win over Cal Poly

The Spartans avoided an 0-3 start and now have momentum heading into Saturday’s game at defending Mid-American Conference champs Toledo

SAN JOSE, Calif. — From the opening kickoff, Jaylan Lawson helped San Jose State set the tone against Cal Poly – and the Spartans hope for the rest of the season.

The senior linebacker smashed Cal Poly returner Xavier Oliphant, knocking the ball loose. Jalen Bainer recovered the ball on the 17-yard line for the Mustangs. A few plays later, Kyle Halvorsen kicked a field goal, sparking the Spartans to a huge first half and a 59-3 victory in front of 14,224 at CEFCU Stadium.

Following lopsided losses to No. 6 USC and No. 16 Oregon State to start the season, the Spartans (2-1) knew they couldn’t afford to go 0-3, especially with another difficult matchup looming next week against defending Mid-American Conference champions Toledo.

“Starting off 0-2, we needed this win,” said SJSU quarterback Chevan Corderio. “It was a real eye-opener for us, and it has really changed our mindset heading into this week.”

In the first half, San Jose State forced two more turnovers and outgained the Mustangs 310-92, racing to a 38-3 halftime lead and never looking back. A 45-minute lighting delay in the second quarter couldn’t stop the Spartans’ momentum.

“Physicality is always the key,” SJSU coach Brent Brennan said. “I was encouraged by how early it showed up for us, and that’s something that has to show up for us because the next three games are all going to be physical.”

San Jose State’s defense shut out the Mustangs and former University of Washington quarterback Sam Huard in the second half, capping off the Spartans’ largest margin of victory since a 103-0 win over the University of Mexico at home in an international game in 1949.

A defensive rebound performance

In back-to-back losses to USC and Oregon State, SJSU allowed 98 points and did not force a turnover. The Spartans, on the other hand, flipped a switch against Cal Poly, allowing only 169 yards, forcing three turnovers, and sacking Huard twice.

Huard, a five-star recruit out of high school, threw for more than 300 yards in his Mustangs debut a week earlier against the University of San Diego, but the Spartans shut him down. Huard completed 17 passes for 66 yards before being intercepted by Chase Williams.

“We just studied him and their offense all week and had a fantastic game.” “We dominated them,” Bainer, an SJSU cornerback, said.

A significantly improved rushing game

SJSU’s rushing attack, which was non-existent against Oregon State, was the game changer against the FCS Mustangs.

After missing the Oregon State game, Kairee Robinson returned and rushed 16 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns. On 12 carries, Quali Conley gained 60 yards and two touchdowns.

Cordeiro was also a factor in the run game, scoring the Spartans’ first rushing touchdown of the season on a 15-yard designed quarterback run in the second quarter to put the Spartans up 31-0.

“I think (Quali and I) will be a big help to the offense for sure,” Robinson said. “We bring a lot of energy and versatility to the game, so I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the season.”

“When the run game is working, it opens up the pass,” Cordeiro added. Linebackers and safeties begin to arrive with their eyes open. It’s always a plus when the running backs score touchdowns.”

More assistance in the passing game

With preseason All-Mountain West wide receiver Justin Lockhart still out, Corderio has had to rely on other targets. He appears to have struck up a good rapport with former quarterback-turned-wide receiver Nick Nash, who leads the team in receptions, but he struggled to connect with anyone else during the first two weeks of the season.

Cordeiro had more success finding his second and third reads against Cal Poly, while Nash only had one catch for -3 yards.

Charles Ross had a strong comeback performance, catching two passes for 39 yards and scoring on a diving touchdown in the second quarter. Malikhi Miller, a junior wide receiver, had three catches for 39 yards.

Even though they only caught two passes combined, tight ends Sam Olson and Dominick Mazotti remained a factor. Olson only caught a 27-yard touchdown pass along the sideline in the first quarter, giving SJSU a 10-0 lead. Cordeiro’s longest pass of the day, a 38-yard pass down the right sideline, was caught by Mazotti.

“I just feel like we have a lot of guys that are ready to play,” Cordeiro said. “We have a lot of hungry guys who want to just step on the field, do their thing, and show what they’ve got.”

What’s next?

On Saturday, the Spartans travel to Toledo, Ohio, to face the University of Toledo.

The Rockets, the reigning Mid-American Conference champions, defeated Texas Southern 71-3 on Saturday after losing 30-28 at Illinois to start the season.

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