SAN JOSE, Calif. — For the second week in a row, the Utah State football team will get some serious attention across the country because of another nationally televised game.
Although Friday night’s contest (7 p.m. MDT, ESPN) against San Jose State at Spartan Stadium won’t be played against a longtime college power like last week’s game with USC, it will be a bigger deal to the Aggies because it comes against a fellow Mountain West Conference member.
“The goal is just to be 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference,’’ said USU coach Matt Wells. “It's very clear to us that that continues to be where we set our sights on.”
Wells is also happy to have another nationally televised game after being on ABC for last week’s contest at USC.
“As far as exposure and the platform, it's the same,’’ he said. “On national television we have to play well for it to mean something with recruiting and branding and imaging and all those things we want to do for our football program and university. You have to play well.’’
The Aggies played well last week down the coast in Los Angeles but came up three points short in a 17-14 loss to the Trojans.
Last week, the Aggies faced one of the nation’s top defenses. This week, they will go against one of the top offenses.
San Jose State senior quarterback David Fales ranks second in career passing efficiency and passing yards and third in career total offense per game among active FBS quarterbacks.
Fales has three receivers — Noel Grigsby, Chandler Jones and Jabari Carr — that each have at least 1,000 career pass receiving yards. Grigsby ranks No. 1 in career receptions among active FBS receivers and is second in receiving yards. Jones is sixth in the nation this year in receiving yards per game.
The Spartans had five pass plays of 30 or more yards against Minnesota last week and averaged 9.3 yards per play. Their problem in a 43-24 loss was that they only had 52 plays in the game.
“They're really explosive,’’ said Wells. “I've got a lot of respect for David Fales from a quarterback standpoint. He has great confidence; he throws balls in tight windows when guys are covered and when they're not. Carr and Jones and Grigsby ... are the trifecta. Those three had good games against us last year, I'm sure they're playing with a lot of confidence.’’
On defense, SJSU is led by linebacker Keith Smith, who is the national leader in tackles per game with 17.0, and cornerback Bene’ Benwikere, who is tied for third in passes defended.
The Aggies will be looking for a better game from quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who was limited by USC’s stout defense. Last week, Keeton made some nice passes, going 21 of 39 for 179 yards and two touchdowns, but never got loose on the ground, finishing with minus-15 yards rushing.
The Aggies are hoping to get their running game going behind Joe Hill and Joey DeMartino. Except for a 55-yard run by DeMartino, the Aggie running game was kept in check by the Trojans during last week’s game.
GAME NOTES: The Spartans come into the game 1-2 after consecutive losses to Stanford (34-13) and Minnesota. Their only win came over Sacramento State, 24-0, the opening week of the season. ... Ron Caragher is in his first season as the Spartans head coach after going 43-23 in six years with the University of San Diego. He took the place of Mike MacIntyre, who went to Colorado. ... Austin Lopez has made 21 consecutive field goals for the Spartans. ... San Jose State leads the overall series 20-14-1. The Aggies have won four straight, including a 49-27 win in San Jose last year. The reason for playing two years in a row in San Jose is because both schools were in the WAC last year and now reside in the Mountain West. ... Next week the Aggies play another Friday night game, this time at home against BYU, while the Spartans play at Hawaii Saturday.