One of the most successful regular seasons in SJSU football history has the opportunity to become the schools winningest on Saturday. The Spartans take on Louisiana Tech University, the offense that leads all of collegiate football averaging just more than 582 yards per game, in the season finale at Spartan Stadium.This game could have been a final-week showdown for the Western Athletic Conference championship, but Utah State should confidently defeat Idaho on Saturday to claim the conference title. Instead, SJSU is playing for something it seems to cherish to the same degree becoming the best major-level football team the school has ever seen.The 1987 Spartan team won 10 games, the tenth being a win over Eastern Michigan in the California Bowl. With a win Saturday, they would become the first team in school history to win 10 regular season games. Looking further into the future, should SJSU receive a bowl invitation and win, the teams potential 11 wins would be the most the school has ever won since becoming a major football program in 1950.Our kids want to go down as winning the most football games of any football team in the history of San Jose State University, head coach Mike MacIntyre said. Thats pretty special. Theyll have that on their picture for the rest of their lives in their office and the seniors will be able to say they built something when no one even gave them a chance.For what theyve done even to this point, even if we dont win the next two, which we plan to, this senior class has really persevered and Im proud of them, but their goal is to be the best San Jose State team, win-wise, ever in the history of the school and we have a shot at that.When thinking of the magnitude of this game and how it could rewrite SJSU football record books, junior linebacker Vince Buhagiar thought of a memorable quote by Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team.Great moments come from great opportunities, Buhagiar said, quoting Brooks. For the past few weeks Ive had that is my head and what we have here is a great opportunity so were hoping to make some great moments and memories out of it.From Buhagiar to other members of the Spartan defense, the phrases fast-paced and keep up were tossed around describing the prolific Bulldogs offense.We have to play to their tempo, said junior defensive back Bene Benwikere about the LA Tech offense. They have a lot of timing a precision. We have to make sure we read our keys and play mentally tough.The game features two quarterbacks found toward the summit of many collegiate passing statistical categories. SJSUs David Fales is the most accurate passer among the college ranks, completing 72.5 percentage of his throws, and is fourth nationally in passing yards.The Bulldogs Colby Cameron, however, ranks higher than Fales in a couple of significant categories. The two are tied for ninth in the country with 28 TD passes, but Cameron has completed more passes for more yards and has thrown 6 fewer interceptions than Fales. Cameron ranks second in the nation with 3,679 passing yards and third with 321 completions.Junior linebacker Keith Smith, the WACs reigning Defensive Player of the Week, said a key for the defense in stopping Cameron lead the Bulldog offense is to get its coverage alignments correct at the line of scrimmage.(Cameron) has a lot of weapons and their coaching scheme, that fast-paced offense, is difficult to deal with, he said.Fales said he cant be too worried with how well the LA Tech offense is clicking, he has to make sure the Spartan offense stays focused.We know that they will put the numbers up, he said. Our defense is putting together a good game plan to slow them down too, but theyre a good offense so we have to be ready to keep going and keep scoring.MacIntyre said he glad to have coach Terry Malley, who spent 14 seasons as an offensive coach with the San Jose Sabercats of the Arena Football League, because LA Tech is putting up arena league numbers.Our defense needs to step up and slow them down and keep them well below their scoring average, MacIntyre said. I dont think you can say you can just say shut them down, nobody has. But I do think we can slow them down and prevent their scoring from being as high as it has been.The LA Tech defense is not as dominant as its offense, though. It ranks 124th in the country in total defense, allowing 518.5 yards per game. MacIntyre, however, said those numbers may be construed because of the Bulldogs offenses ability to score quickly. La Techs defense has played 68 more plays on the defense than the next busiest defense in the WAC.Theyre never out of it, MacIntyre said describing how dominant the Bulldogs offense can be. Our kids, when they see the film, theyll see the scores, how quick they score. Theyll see that theyre never out of it. So we need to keep putting on more steam, over and over and over.For the second week in a row, SJSU will play on ESPN2. Smith, who recorded a conference-best 19 tackles in last weekends 20-14 win over BYU, said the game will be a perfect stage for us.Last game of the season, what a better way than to have it at home on national TV? Smith said. Its a big game, again. I feel like we showed up last week and if we prepared better than we did last week, or even just as good, I feel like were going to fare well.
Bob Murphy, who was the voice of Stanford athletics when such titles truly mattered in the Bay Area, died Tuesday after a long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 86.
Murphy was viscerally connected to the university in ways that were once in vogue across the nation but are now reserved only to the Midwest and Southeast. He was a walking ambassador for the school’s athletic history, a familiar face to the army of alums who linked to his voice and presence early and ultimately grew old with him, even when coaches and players and athletic directors came and went with unsettling frequency.
And while his time as the alternate face to Hoover Tower eventually faded, he was still Murph – to be honored and respected by all generations, even the ones who never heard him or saw him. If anyone below the age of 25 asked about him, he was spoken of with the reverence reserved for architectural structures or hundred-year-old trees. He belonged to the place, and the place belonged to him.
He mattered at Stanford, because Stanford is an insular community, watching the world outside with a palpable sense of “Thank God we’re safe in here.” He attended the school, he worked as its sports information director, and he was the radio voice who fought for Stanford when only a few people were listening. He had proven his devotion decades ago, until his devotion became part of the background noise and scenery.
And he didn’t even leave after he became ill, and then absent. Only the most successful coaches and athletes get to attain that omnipresent aura in college athletics, and in truth, Murphy reached more people in the community than any coach or player the school has ever had, simply by being at the place, and of the place, longer and more happily than anyone.
Sometime soon, we suspect, he will be remembered with a statue, either near the football stadium or near Maples Pavilion. He will be bronzed, wearing a polo shirt with the S-with-the-interlocking-tree and glasses wedged against the bridge of his nose. He will be seated, with a desk before him and microphone perched atop it, and there will be a plaque with a Wikipedia-ized list of his contributions.
But without the voice, it will be incomplete. That will have to be recreated inside the heads of those who heard it most often, and cared most what words it carried. It is there where Bob Murphy’s memory will thrive – as someone who defined Stanford in ways that no marketing campaign ever could.
Steve Kerr has been the standard by which all other coaches have been measured in these parts since he arrived in Oakland – rescued as it was from the nine hells of the New York Knickerbockers. He is indeed so good that he is still getting credit for the 50 wins he actually didn’t fully merit – the 39 that belong to Luke Walton and the 11 that are Mike Brown’s.
But this is not to slag Kerr’s record – which even if you eliminate the 55 games he hasn’t coached in his three years because of his back issue is still the best in NBA history – but to remind you that David Shaw still exists, he still is supervising the golden age of Stanford football, and he is just as unavailable to pro teams as he ever was.
Shaw, whose team opens its season on Saturday night in Australia against Rice, has been beneath the radar since the day he arrived, for no better reasons than (a) the Bay Area doesn’t hold much stock in college football and (b) he likes it that way. His excellence is indisputable, but he is also in the perfect place to do his job without any of the irritants that surround most college coaches – media, embittered alumni, NCAA investigators, the late night call from the cops about your outside linebacker overturning a minivan, that kind of thing.
He has worn down all attempts to question him on his next job because, while he could get one at the snap of a finger, he was not infected with the standard coach’s ambition to see and be seen. He has seen the sport’s many excesses and has decided to ward off the ones that directly touch him.
He still believes in the game’s virtues, and can probably be considered a fairly doctrinaire figure on most issues confronting the sport and its practitioners, but does not have to pretend that he is too focused on the job to be interested in mundane things like eclipses, political turmoil, social justice and all the other noxious things that happen outside the cocoon.
But be not fooled. He likes the cocoon that is Stanford, and he has the sense to understand that the chance of a better job existing is almost infinitesimal. He may someday want something more public and lucrative, but until money and fame get a long winning streak going at his house, he’ll sit quietly, the second-best coach in the Bay Area and the first-best at making you not remember that he is just that.