With two arguably dominant wins in a row at home under its belt, the SJSU football team will hit the road to take on San Diego State, the first truly tough test for the Spartans since nearly beating Stanford in the seasons opening game.We look at it as a big deal any time we play a school within our system, head coach Mike MacItyre said about SDSU in regards to the California State University system. Our kids are pumped to play in this game.The most daunting task for SJSU this weekend is to put a halt to the Aztecs two-headed monster of a run game it continues to show success with week after week. Sophomore Adam Muema and senior Walter Kazee make up an SDSU running duo that has gained 494 yards this season. Putting each of their contributions in perspective, the two are only four rushes and 10 yards apart in season statistics, with Muema leading in both categories. Kazee, however, has four rushing touchdowns on the season, one more than Muema.MacIntyre said the run defenses strategy will be very similar to what they put out on the field to help stop Stanford and star running back Stepfan Taylor.We go to fill our gaps, line up correctly, MacIntyre said. We got to be physical and we do have a bunch of physical guys.(San Diego State) does a really good job like Stanford at times of getting you out of position so we have been working on lining up correctly. We have been working on alignments because that to me is really important.Last week in a 49-41 win over North Dakota State in San Diego, the two Aztec running backs combined for 229 yards rushing on 31 carries and three touchdowns. MacIntyre said containing them will be crucial in order for SJSU to capture its first road win in 2012.We have to wrap them up. We have to gang tackle, he said. We have to know how to fit their runs.In addition to Muema and Kazee, SDSU has a pretty impressive quarterback in senior Ryan Katz, a transfer from Oregon State playing in his first season with the Aztecs.The thing he can do really well is he has an incredible arm but he can also run, MacIntyre said. He really has a way to improvise, put the ball down and run. Im very impressed with their offensive ability.Last week, Katz added 80 yards on the ground to the 241 yards he gained through the air and showed how two-dimensional he can be. He also showed how efficient he can pass, completing 11-of-18 passes without throwing an interception while finding receivers in the end zone three times.The Aztecs two-man run game, along with an efficient quarterback who can also run, is proving to be a difficult matchup for SJSU, but MacIntyre said the defense has been working on turning SDSUs offense into a one-dimensional game.Once they get the run game going they kind of get you in a dilemma there so we have to try and get them one-dimensional the best way we can, he said. Hopefully well be able to stop the run enough that we wont have to commit as many to the run and play the pass a bit better.Junior wide receiver Noel Grigsby, who broke the schools all-time receptions record in the teams win over Colorado State, will play this Saturday after missing some time in practice after falling on his right shoulder in practice on Tuesday. Grigsby now has 165 career receptions at SJSU, five more that the records previous holder, Kevin Jurovich.Senior offensive lineman David Quessenberry also should play after missing the game against Colorado State with an ankle injury.MacIntyre said the teams depth, which showed by replacing Quessenberry on Saturday, is a key to the team staying competitive thus far this season.The better players you have, the more depth you have, the more experience you have; the more games you win, he said. Were getting to that point. Hopefully we stay relatively healthy and are able to play a lot of guys.MacIntyre said he wants more consistency out of his running backs. SJSU has been up and down all season long. It gained just 72 yards against Stanford; 216 on UC Davis then down to 139 against Colorado State.If we can (become more consistent) it will help us run the clock some and finish some games out, he said. I want us to keep growing in that area and I think we are.
BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.
USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.
Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.
It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.
Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.
CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.
A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.
CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.
Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.
“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.
"He does everything at a high level.”
At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.
“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”
Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.
“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”
Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.
“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.
And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.
“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”
No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”
Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.
“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”
One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.
“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”
Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.
“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”