SAN JOSE, Calif. – It was the worst-case scenario for Eastern Washington University and indeed, as advertised, “A New Day in San Jose.”
San Jose State scored 28 unanswered points – despite a turnover inside the Eastern 10-yard line – to start the Dick Tomey Era with a 35-24 victory over EWU Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles, the fourth-ranked I-AA team, did some good things, but it wasn’t the flawless game they needed. Two turnovers inside the 20, nine penalties in the first half and sloppy tackling allowed the Spartans, a I-A doormat in recent years, to gain confidence and a much-needed win.
“When that happens it’s hard to beat anybody, let alone a Division I-A team on the road,” Eastern coach Paul Wulff said. “We can’t make those kind of mistakes and win. If we would have played a better ballgame, we would have won.”
The Eastern contingent among the 11,878 at Spartan Stadium was encouraged when the Eagles scored on three consecutive possessions to build a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter. But EWU couldn’t maintain the start because of penalties, turnovers and some big plays by the Spartans.
The Spartans got a momentum-changing touchdown with a quick drive late in the second quarter. They added two quick TDs early in the third quarter when the Eagles had two costly turnovers. After a potentially devastating turnover inside the Eastern 10 and a discouraging missed field goal for the Eagles, they took command with a long drive for a 35-17 lead. All that happened in a 14-minute span.
“I thought we played hard and in a lot of ways controlled the game longer than they did,” Wulff said. “But there was that short stretch at the end of the second quarter and the first part of the third quarter when we didn’t. That was a big 21-point swing right there and that had a lot of implications. That was the key, and other than that I thought we played pretty darn well.”
The game really turned after the Spartans had taken a 21-17 lead on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Defensive end Justin James knocked an Erik Meyer third-down pass from the 17 high into the air, Ulisese Liua hauled it in at the 6, brushed off Meyer and rumbled into the end zone.
Meyer cramped up on the play, and when Eastern got the ball back on its 18 after the kickoff, backup quarterback Chris Peerboom was in. Peerboom promptly fumbled the snap from center Kraig Sigler and Liua recovered on the 16.
The Eagles managed to avoid disaster when Isaiah Trufant stole the ball from Al Guidry after he gained enough yards on a fourth-and-1 carry from the 7. But after the Eagles marched from the 14 to the SJSU 11, a sack and a missed 37-yard field goal stopped the momentum.
Trailing 35-17 with less than 3 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Eagles went to their no-huddle offense and quickly marched 65 yards. But they never recaptured the first-half magic.
“We came out good and tore it up for a quarter, and after that we missed on a couple of things, didn’t execute,” said Meyer, who ended up completing 23 of 38 passes for 372 yards and two TDs. “They were pretty basic … we just missed on a couple of plays, missed on a couple of throws and they got the momentum.”
Meyer, who was sacked four times, ended up cramping up again early in the fourth quarter and never returned.
“The heat, the humidity a little bit, the adrenaline of getting into a game, I don’t know what it was,” Meyer said.
It didn’t matter much because the Eagles only had the ball for 4 minutes in the final quarter.
“They got a little push on there at the end but we hung in there,” Eastern defensive coordinator Jody Sears said about his team wearing down. “We forced them to make plays and they did. They’ve got good talent. What more can you do?”
SJSU quarterback Adam Tafralis threw for two TDs in the first half and ran for two more in the third quarter. Tafralis ended up 21 of 34 for 290 yards, threading the needle several times for big plays.
“This was a tough one,” said Trufant, who caused and recovered a second fumble in the fourth quarter. “They just started making a few plays. … Obviously, they have some great athletes on offense. Obviously, they’re going to make some plays … and they capitalized on them.”
San Jose St. 35, Eastern Wash. 24
|San Jose State||7||7||21||0—35|
EWU—Vijil 27 pass from Meyer (Weddle kick), 7:11.
SJSU—Skillern 20 pass from Tafralis (Strubeck kick), 5:48.
EWU—Cole 5 run (Weddle kick), 1:17.
EWU—FG 29 Weddle, 9:13.
SJSU—Broussard 20 pass from Tafralis (Strubeck kick), 1:32.
SJSU—Tafralis 8 run (Strubeck kick), 12:12.
SJSU—Ulisese Liua 6 interception return (Strubeck kick), 10:42.
SJSU—Tafralis 3 run (Strubeck kick), 2:28.
EWU—Cole 21 run pass from Meyer (Weddle kick), 0:54.
|Time of Possession||26:07||33:53|
RUSHING—E Washington, Cole 19-85, Morris 3-19, Kefu 2-6, Team 1-(-2), Meyer 6-(-18). San Jose St, Davis 13-94, Guidry 11-54, Tafralis 7-44, Callier 6-28, Perry 4-19, Bozzo 1-6, Jones 1-6, Broussard 1-4, Team 1-(-2).
PASSING—E Washington, Meyer 23-38-1-372, Peerboom 0-2-0-0. San Jose St, Tafralis 21-34-1-290, Bozzo 0-1-0-0, Team 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—E Washington, Kimble 9-118, Vijil 5-121, Sanders 3-46, Cole 3-33, Togar 1-37, Coleman 1-12, Powell 1-5. San Jose St, Skillern 7-138, Jones 5-47, Callier 3-45, Broussard 2-27, Lance 2-21, Coleman 1-9, Watje 1-3.