The Spartans (5-3, 4-1 Mountain West Conference (MWC)) are on a four-game winning streak following Saturday night’s convincing victory against Univeristy of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
Despite a rough night for senior quarterback David Fales, the rushing attack of SJSU compiled 312 yards, which is the most the Spartans have totaled since 2006 where they rushed for 476 yards against Louisiana Tech, according to SJSU Athletics.
In the last four games, SJSU rushed for 216.5 yards per game. This is a drastic improvement from the 81.25 rushing yards per game in the first four games.
Head Coach Ron Caragher said with teams focusing on defending the pass, the running game has gotten better.
“Sometimes it's taking what the defense will give us, other times its just a matter of — and I’ve said this before — finding your strengths,” Caragher said.
The surge in the Spartan rushing attack is attributed to a trio of freshman running backs: Jarrod Lawson, Thomas Tucker and Tim Crawley.
“Those young backs have really given us some versatility,” Caragher said. “Those guys bring something different to the table, each one of them.”
Not only did the Spartans run the ball well, but they stopped the run as well, holding UNLV to a season-low 86 rushing yards.
SJSU defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson was moved from the press box to the field for the game against UNLV, which was something Caragher admitted he and Thompson spoke about previously.
Caragher said the decision to make the move was beneficial to the team on Saturday.
“Sometimes you have a great eagle-eye. From the press box you can see what people are doing, that’s the advantage of being upstairs,” Caragher said. “The advantage of being on the field is the chemistry, and the leadership, and you're down among the players during the timeouts, those breaks to rally the guys.”
The team came out fast in all phases to get the road victory and has a never-quit attitude, according to Caragher.
“I think our guys play hard," he said. "We get after it, and that’s really what the game of football is all about."
Caragher preached improvement at Monday’s press conference.
“You start in one place in the beginning of the year, and I have always been a believer, you want to be a much improved team come November,” he said. “No one stays the same, you're either getting better or you're getting worse. Our goal is to continue to improve and get better.”
With a four-game winning streak, the Spartans are certainly hot entering November.
Caragher said he is encouraged by the contributions from both the veteran players and the younger players.
“There’s very good camaraderie, there’s respect and that’s just (the) locker room we want to have,” he said.
Caragher said the veteran players such as senior wide receiver Chandler Jones have done a nice job embracing the younger players and taking them under their wing.
“That’s the culture we want, we're all united, we’re together as one,” Caragher said. “We play as a team, we celebrate together and we cry together and that’s just who we are and what we're about.”
Caragher said Jones has helped freshman wide receiver Tyler Winston, who has stepped up since injuries to the Spartan receiving core earlier this season.
Winston has 28 catches through six games this season for a total of 560 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns, second in every category to Jones.
“It’s a great balance. You've got a freshman who’s 18 years old and who’s played in four or five games now, then you've got Chandler who was a walk-on at San Jose State,” Caragher said. “I love those stories.”
Jones has the most receiving touchdowns in Spartan history with 24, 10 of which have come this season.
“Chandler always has a great attitude, and you could say Chandler is a part of Tyler’s success,” Caragher said. “It’s going back to the culture we want.”
Caragher said it doesn't just stop at Winston. Plenty of first-year players have made an impact this season.
“Kyle Nunn’s done a good job, Timmy Crawley is another freshman who (has) done a good job,” he said. “It’s (a) good balance and it's neat to see the veterans and the first year players having success.”
This Saturday SJSU will host defending Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State University at Spartan Stadium.
The Aztecs (4-4, 3-1 MWC) have won four of their last five games, the one loss coming two weeks ago to an undefeated Fresno State squad in overtime, 35-28.
“We just need to go out and play Spartan football and execute and play a good game because it's going to be tough,” Caragher said.