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.
LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-12 will shorten halftime and reduce the number of commercial breaks during its non-conference schedule this season as part of a trial program to reduce the length of its football games.
Halftime will be 15 minutes long, cut down from the usual 20-minute break. The number of commercial breaks will be reduced and they will be shorter in length, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday.
Scott announced the initiative as the Pac-12 kicked off its media days in Hollywood. The experiment is intended to shorten ballooning game times in an era of up-tempo offenses running more plays and the increased scoring that comes with it.
"Just because metrics show robust ratings and attendance doesn't mean we shouldn't be experimenting and piloting with formats that will keep the sport attractive," Scott said. "It's incumbent on us to look at the presentation of the sport and make sure the pace of play is moving as much as possible and without changing the fundamentals of the game."
Scott did not completely dismiss potential rule changes in the future to address the length of games, saying that the upcoming experiment was part of a larger, more comprehensive review.
Scott noted that Pac-12 games have averaged nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes, more than 30 minutes longer than NFL games. Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to stopping the clock after first downs in college football, a rule not used in the NFL.
The halftime reduction could be a significant incentive to keep television viewers tuned in. Scott said up to 30 percent of the audience is lost during that break.
The changes could also have a positive effect on stadium attendance since Pac-12 fans have complained about the increase in late starts under the conference's most recent television deal. Fans might be more likely to watch a game in-person on a Thursday or Saturday night if they have a chance to get home before midnight.
For Arizona and Arizona State, which hold their early-season home games after dark to avoid the desert heat, it could mean their fans spend less time in triple-digit temperatures.
Pac-12 coaches consulted about the change did not believe it would hinder their ability to make adjustments at halftime, Scott said.
"I was delighted to hear our coaches feel like 20 minutes is more than they need from a student-athlete health and rest and X's and O's perspective," Scott said.
Scott also announced the league's plans to operate a centralized replay center, joining other conferences in consolidating its video review facilities.
The Pac-12 title game will stay at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, through 2019, Scott said. The league also has the option to hold the 2020 game in Santa Clara.
Even the most passionate Cal fan might struggle to name a single player on the current basketball roster. The team's top five leading scorers from last season have all departed. Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird moved on to the NBA, Grant Mullins graduated, and both Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks elected to transfer.
But perhaps the most significant change is on the sideline. Out is Cuonzo Martin, who agreed to a massive seven-year contract with Missouri, worth a reported $21 million. Replacing him is 44-year-old Wyking Jones, a longtime assistant coach, who spent the past two seasons as Martin's top aide in Berkeley.
Jones' promotion was met with heavy criticism from many in the media, both locally and nationally. Skeptics believe Cal settled for the cheap option, rather than the best option. But why can't both be true? There's no denying that salary played a factor in the hire - the athletic department's financial troubles have been well documented in recent years. But Jones impressed Athletic Director Mike Williams in other areas too, reportedly acing his job interview with a detailed plan for the program moving forward. And unlike the other candidates, Jones already has direct experience dealing with Cal's unique set of circumstances.
“It's not something that you can walk into and just get a really good grasp of,” Jones explained. “It's a learning curve that, if you walk into this situation for the first time, it would take you a tremendous amount of time. Knowing who to go to when you need things, who's in charge of this, who's in charge of that, just having a familiarity of how to really get things done around here.”
Jones also discovered the challenges of recruiting at a school like Cal, where not every athlete can qualify academically. While many coaches would view that as a negative, Jones chooses to embrace it.
“In my mind, that's what makes this place special,” he said. “It's the number one public institution in the world for a reason. Your recruiting pool shrinks quite a bit, but that's okay because typically what happens is if you get a kid who has a lot of discipline on and off the court, you're not going to run into troubles on the weekends when they're in the dorms. They're usually kids who have a lot of respect for the community and other students.”
From a coaching standpoint, Jones has unquestionably paid his dues in the world of college basketball. Prior to joining Cal as an assistant in 2015, he made stops at Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, where he also played from 1991-95. Now, after nearly 15 years in collegiate coaching, Wyking Jones is a head coach.
“I think initially it's very exciting to have an opportunity to coach, have your own program at a storied program like Cal, to follow in the footsteps of some great coaches,” he said, smiling. “But now the smoke has cleared and it's time to get to work.”
That work has already begun. As previously mentioned, Jones will have to replace his top five scorers from a year ago, who accounted for nearly 56 points per game. The Bears will count on increased production from senior center Kingsley Okoroh and junior guard Don Coleman. They will also rely heavily on redshirt senior forward Marcus Lee, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky.
“It's an adjustment, for sure,” Jones admitted. “But you have 13 scholarships for a reason. It's just an opportunity for the guys who are still here to earn their scholarship. It's an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and have an impact on this program.”
Under Cuonzo Martin, Cal established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the country. Last season, the Bears ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game. Jones hopes to continue that trend while also implementing a full-court pressure defense, similar to the one he coached at Louisville, which resulted in a national championship in 2013.
“It's a process,” he acknowledged. “In year one, hopefully we can be good at it. In year two, look to improve. In year three, hope to be great at it... It's a type of defense, when you're talking about pressing, it's reading all the other guys on the court. It's never scripted. It's being able to read when is the right time to go trap, when is the right time to go switch, when is the right time to bluff and stunt at a guy to slow him down. So there's a learning curve in it.”
Jones knows there will also be a learning curve for him personally as a head coach, especially with such a young and inexperienced roster. He expects his team to be overlooked and undervalued by much of the college basketball world, but that's just fine with him.
“I think a lot of people will probably guess that we won't be very good, and that's motivation right there. That's motivation for my staff, for our managers, for the support staff. It's motivation for everybody that's a part of this program to exceed those expectations. So I think that makes for an exciting season.”