Sitting at 2-2 and 1-2, Utah State and San Jose State doesn’t appear to be a matchup between contenders. But with a 1-0 conference record, the Aggies hope to pick up a win to set the bar in the race for the Mountain West Conference title.
“That’s the talk, that’s the goal and what we’re preaching. We talked about it early this morning and we talked about it late last night,” USU head coach Matt Wells said. “I don’t have any reason to believe that they won’t because that’s who we are, that’s who this program is.”
Last season the Aggies raced past the Spartans on the road behind a school-record 13 sacks from the defense, with four players recording two sacks each. Quarterback David Fales is back under center for the Spartans, and the senior ranks 33rd in the nation in passing yards with 880 yards through three games.
Fales is also ranked 42nd nationally in touchdown passes with six, and threw for 467 yards against USU last season.
Senior cornerback Nevin Lawson said the Spartans distribute the ball well among their receiving core.
“Like I said, they’ve got more than just one weapon. They’ve got four different receivers who are really good and they’ve got a good tight end,” Lawson said. “Fales will probably be the best quarterback we’ve faced. He’s a great quarterback, he just knows how to put the ball in a position where his receivers can go get it, even if it’s into tight coverage.”
SJSU has four different receivers with at least 100 yards receiving this season, led by Chandler Jones. The senior wide receiver has 370 yards receiving and has been on the end of four of Fales six touchdown passes this season.
Senior Noel Grigsby has the other two touchdown receptions and the Spartans passing attack is ranked 24th in the country with an average of 293.3 yards per game. On the ground, San Jose State averages 74.7 yards per game, ranked 115th in the country.
Last season when the teams met, the Aggies held the Spartans to just four total yards rushing on 41 attempts.
USU is riding a four-game winning streak against the Spartans, with two of the past three games being decided by less than a touchdown — including a come-from-behind 34-33 win at home in 2011.
“They’re going to be hungry, we’re going to have the target on our backs, so if anything, we’re going to have to be sharper and more prepared for them,” said senior offensive guard Jamie Markosian. “They’re going to bring everything they’ve got just like we will. … I don’t think anything will be different, we’ll have to deal with their best shot but they’re going to have to deal with ours.”
Defensively San Jose State is ranked 50th nationally in total defense, giving up 368.7 yards per game. However, the Spartans are ranked 105th against the run, allowing 212.0 yards per game — the same number they allowed against the Aggies last season.
Markosian said he hopes the Aggies have similar success this season.
“We had a really good running attack last year in that game,” he said. “We were able to open the holes for Kerwynn (Williams) and he was able to scoot like he does. I hope the same game plan will be instilled and I’m pretty confident it will be.”
The Spartans have been much better against the pass and are ranked 14th nationally allowing 156.7 yards per game through the air.
Kickoff between the Aggies and Spartans is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST on Friday, Sept. 27, and the game will be televised on ESPN.