Spartans outduel Louisiana Tech, await bowl invitation


Spartans outduel Louisiana Tech, await bowl invitation

The SJSU football team equaled its winningest season in program history Saturday night with a 52-43 win over Louisiana Tech University. The Spartans will now sit by the phone, with their heads held as high as they have been this entire season, awaiting a bowl invitation that is sure to come their way.SJSU outplayed the nation's top offense entering the game by out-gaining the Bulldogs 610-541 in total offense, obtaining the school's 10-win season since 1987.Its a dream, you dream of playing games like this its crazy, said quarterback David Fales, describing the teams second win in a row on national television. Im happy for the seniors to get them out like this. SJSU ends the regular season by handing LA Tech its first road loss of the season and grasping its first six-game winning streak since 1990, breaking records set the last time the Spartans defeated the Bulldogs en route to the accomplishment. The Spartans recorded 610 yards of total offense, the most since they defeated LA Tech 44-10 in 2006.My hats off to our team, to our captains, to our seniors, said head coach Mike MacIntyre. What a way to finish off the regular season, and thats fun to say because we have one more and we cant wait to play that one either.Our team captain said it best. David Quessenberry, he goes Guys, three years ago there were 120 Division I teams and we were probably No. 120. And today we can go out there and win 10 games on national television and show the world how far weve come, and those men have done it.Getting that tenth win was no walk in the park. The game was riddled with offense from both teams throughout, but SJSU (10-2, 5-1 WAC) was able to scrounge up enough defensive effort to stop LA Tech (9-3, 4-2 WAC) from keeping pace with its offense. Spartan defensive back Bene Benwikere intercepted three passes in the second half, the final being a game-sealing pick with just under a minute to play in the game. Coach Mac told us they were going to make plays; they were going make runs so we just had to stay focused and keep playing hard and thats what we did, Benwikere said. He told us dont get down whenever they make plays, make sure you make the play when its most important and I think the whole team definitely did that.MacIntyre said that with the explosive offense from LA Tech all he was hoping for was a turnover by his defense.I thought that if we could keep them from running, like we did, wed eventually pick them off and we did, MacIntyre said about the shootout nature of the football game. I kept thinking Dont turn the ball over and well win the football game because theyre going to turn it over and they did.Both teams offensive engines were set to full bore coming out of halftime, commencing a series of back-and-forth scores between the two teams. LA Tech scored on its first possession of the second half with a 29-yard field goal. SJSU responded about three minutes later with a 4-yard touchdown run by Ina Liaina to set the score at 31-30, SJSU lead.Just over a minute after Liaina found the end zone, LA Techs Myles White caught a 33-yard pass from quarterback Colby Cameron to the Bulldogs back ahead. Cameron finished the game with 468 yards on 38 of 59 passing, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Cameron hadnt thrown an interception all season until throwing two last week.The game saw its final lead change with a 32-yard touchdown run by SJSU running back DeLeon Eskridge, making the score 38-37. Eskridge tacked on another touchdown run of the 1-yard variety in the fourth quarter to pad the Spartan lead. Eskridge finished the evening with a single-game career-high 217 rushing yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns.I just was calm today, Eskridge said. I felt comfortable today. It was my last game, I wasn't overhyped I was just comfortable. The O-line blocks things up real well. Being loose helped be find the right reads but the holes were already there.LA Tech was able to creep back to within two points after the Eskridge 1-yard touchdown run. Cameron found Quinton Patton on a 10-yard pass with 11:37 left in the game but SJSU made sure the Bulldogs wouldnt complete the comeback. The Spartans scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Fales to wide receiver Jabari Carr to complete the games scoring at 52-43.Fales completed 25 of 37 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in the game. He also broke the SJSU single-season record for completions, which was held by Scott Rislov, who completed 275 passes in 2002. Fales finished the regular season with 294 completions.Both the Bulldogs and the Spartans scored on their first possessions of the second half. LA Tech opened the second half with a 69-yard drive finished off with a 24-yard field goal by Matt Nelson. SJSU took its next drive 57 yards and scored a touchdown on a 4-yard run by Ina Liaina.LA Tech scored twice in rapid succession to end the first half. With 1:57 left in the second quarter, Cameron found Patton without a Spartan within a 5-yard radius for a 52-yard touchdown strike. That deep passing touchdown made the score 24-20 in favor of SJSU.Spartan kick returner Forrest Hightower fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up LA Tech for a go-ahead drive with 1:46 in the first half. It did not take the Bulldogs long to capitalize, either. Cameron punched the ball into the end zone from a yard out just more than a minute later, sending the game into the half with a 27-24 Bulldog lead. The Spartans were able to make their way to the Bulldogs 28 yard line on their opening drive but were held short on third down, leading to an Austin Lopez 45-yard field goal to open the games scoring.The SJSU defense held LA Tech to just a single first down on its opening possession, returning the ball to the Spartans offense for another score. SJSU covered 88 yards on 8 plays on its second drive, capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass from Fales to Hansel Wilson, who crept out of the backfield and was found in stride.Hansel Wilson was an unsung hero of tonights ballgame, MacIntyre said.SJSUs other first-half turnover an interception by Fales early in the second quarter was turned into a scoring drive by the Bulldogs. A fake field goal shovel pass from David Gru to Malon Lee tricked the Spartan special teams and kept the Bulldogs within reach.As far as which bowl the Spartans will be invited to, the players and MacIntyre have no preference.I just want to be in one, MacIntyre said. I want our kids to in one and enjoy the moment. I dont know where well be, but I tell you what well be happy to be there and play the best we can play.

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft


Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.