San Jose State’s Thanksgiving Day showdown vs. Fresno State ‘like a playoff game’

San Jose State has a lot on its plate Thanksgiving Day at CEFCU Stadium.

Not only is the Battle of the Valley Trophy up for grabs for an eighth time, but the Spartans (5-6, 3-4 Mountain West) find themselves in desperate need of a victory in the regular-season finale against rival Fresno State to become bowl eligible.

“It’s kind of like a playoff game,” SJSU left tackle Jack Snyder said. “If we win, we get to keep playing, so it’s kind of like all the cards are on the table.”

The problem is the Bulldogs (8-3, 5-2) also don’t lack for motivation, considering a victory will secure the Mountain Division title and a spot in the conference championship game – as long as Boise State defeats No. 22 San Diego State on Friday.

The Spartans, who closed out their 2019 campaign with a win over the Bulldogs, look forward to the challenge after last year’s matchup was canceled due to COVID-19 complications.

“It’s Thanksgiving, we’re on national TV, we’re playing a meaningful game in November, which is really what you want,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said.

At least 19 players are scheduled to participate in Senior Day pregame activities, including quarterback Nick Starkel, who missed five games in October with what’s believed to be a broken collarbone.

The SEC transfer is in his sixth and final year of eligibility, and is not ready for his collegiate career to come to an end.

“That’s a real thing for all of our seniors,” Starkel said. “It means a lot to us. I know that I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that this game really is the most important game that I’ve ever played in, just because of all the implications behind it.”

If San Jose State hopes to play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1986-87, here are a few keys to victory on Thursday:

Proficiency and efficiency

San Jose State ranks dead last in the Mountain West in both turnover margin and time of possession.

Starkel’s absence in part is a reason the Spartans are still fighting to keep their season alive, although he has thrown an interception in every game he’s played and only completed 53 percent of his passes. The running game was stuffed for 12 yards on 22 carries in the most recent – and lopsided – loss, 48-17 against Utah State.

Going into the bye week, Starkel already formed a game plan for practice.

“I think that we can work on discipline, our toughness on third down and our attention to detail in our pass game,” he said. “Whether that’s protection, whether that’s route depth, what to do against man, what to do against zone. All that attention to detail in the pass game goes a long ways for us, especially the way we play offense.”

Starkel will need to keep an eye out for Bulldogs safety Evan Williams, who leads the team with three interceptions. Williams attended Brennan’s alma mater, St. Francis High in Mountain View.

Contain the Bay Area transplants

Fresno State is powered …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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