San Jose State has provided superlative moments -- but little else
Posted: Monday November 15, 2004 1:51PM; Updated: Wednesday November 17, 2004 1:43PM
San Jose State QB Adam Tafralis fell to the turf after suffering a heartbreaking, double-OT defeat to Boise State.
San Jose State is the best novelty act in college football this season. So far SJSU has provided its Spartan Stadium fans with two superlative moments during an otherwise forgettable 2-7 season. In October, the Spartans won the highest-scoring (in regulation time) game in Division I-A history, a 70-63 victory against Rice. The 133 points scored were remarkable not only in terms of sheer volume but also for the fact they were solely the product of 19 touchdowns and extra points (no field goals, no safeties). The Spartans, in their lone win against a Division I-A school in 2004 (the other came against Morgan State), recovered from deficits of 28 points (before halftime) and 14 points (in the fourth quarter).
The second superlative moment happened Saturday: the earliest kickoff time in Division I-A history. San Jose State kicked off to undefeated Boise State at 9:02 a.m. local time in San Jose. A game played at a Pop Warner starting time initially felt much like a Junior Pee Wee game. San Jose scored first when Boise State forgot to cover running back Tyson Thompson out of the backfield. Thompson flared out left, caught a pass about 15 yards downfield, and scored a 69-yard TD untouched.
That wasn't the only Pop Warner aspect. The Spartans, despite such records as "Most Points Scored" and "Earliest Kickoff," entered the game last in the nation in attendance. SJSU averages about 7,000 per game, which is to say it would have to play 15 home games per season to draw as many fans as Michigan does on a typical Saturday.
The crowd was small. Penalties, especially during the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour that was the first half, were plentiful. Boise State was flagged before its very first snap, prompting ESPN2 play-by-play announcer Pam Ward to lament that "the Broncos are penalized before their very first snap this afternoon." This afternoon? So Ward's not a morning person.
And talk about wake-up calls. The Spartans performed as if this was their bowl game, which it was. ESPN2's national audience saw a wildly entertaining, if less than masterful contest that ended 42-42 in regulation. The No. 13 Broncos, who came in as overwhelming favorites -- the San Jose student newspaper, The Spartan Daily, even predicted a Boise State blowout -- should have lost. The Spartans advanced the ball to the Bronco 13 with 1:11 remaining and the score tied. Jeff Carr's 30-yard field goal was partially blocked by Boise State cornerback Gabriel Alexander, who owns a school-record 40.5-inch vertical leap.
In O.T. Boise State scored two touchdowns to win, 56-49. The nationally televised overtime win versus one of the nation's weaker programs (though San Jose State looked anything but on Saturday) did nothing to enhance Boise State's status with pollsters, but it did extend the nation's longest win streak (20 games) while also improving upon the nation's No. 1 scoring offense's points-per-game average. The Broncos (now 9-0, No. 13 in the AP poll) entered the game averaging 47.2 ppg, but are now up around 48.
Sure, Alabama could trip Auburn in the Iron Bowl this Saturday in Tuscaloosa, inconsistent Notre Dame could upset its third top-10 opponent of the season on Nov. 27 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and Oklahoma could choke in the Big 12 Championship game (as if any of us saw it coming last December). Any of those things could happen. But they probably won't. So let's assume Southern Cal, Auburn and Oklahoma (and don't read anything into being third on that list, Sooners fans) all finish undefeated. Who doesn't go to Miami (well, Fort Lauderdale, actually)?
Cognizant that the following stats are overrated because the three schools are not playing common opponents, I researched where the top three stand nationally in the two most fundamental team statistics: scoring offense and scoring defense. In the former, Southern Cal is No. 6 nationally (37.1 ppg), Oklahoma No. 12 (35.6) and Auburn No. 16 (34.2). In scoring defense the three BCS-conference unbeatens rank 1, 2 and 14. Auburn is tops overall, allowing 9.3 points per game. Southern Cal is second at 11.6 and Oklahoma is 14th at 16.1. If the Sooners are left out of the national championship game, they'll have the 70 combined points they allowed at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M to blame.
Those stats are through Saturday's games, by the way. Entering Saturday, the two zero-loss teams with the greatest disparity between their scoring offense and scoring defense rankings were Boise State and Wisconsin. The Broncos ranked first in scoring O and 44th nationally in scoring D (and that disparity only grew wider after Saturday's 56-49 win). The Badgers ranked first in scoring D and 78th in scoring O, but after allowing 49 points to Michigan State (after giving up a total of 82 points in their first nine games, all wins), Wisconsin no longer has to worry about that disparity. Nor about going to a BCS bowl.
No school will feel worse, or at least no school should feel worse, about missing a BCS bowl than Louisville. The Cardinals (7-1, No. 8 in the AP poll) squandered a 31-14 second-half lead at Miami on Oct. 14 and lost 41-38. Two and a half weeks earlier they had shut out North Carolina, a team that would beat Miami 31-28 on Halloween weekend. The Cards are No. 3 in the nation in scoring offense behind the two other non-BCS darlings, Boise State and Utah, but, unlike those two schools, also have a top-25 scoring defense. And, unlike Boise State and Utah, Bobby Petrino's team has played a top-10 school (the Canes) this autumn.