Provo • Who says the BYU Cougars don’t play any meaningful football games in November this year?
The 6-4 Cougars’ quest to win three straight games for the first time this season has suddenly become a difficult one, with the 8-2 San Jose State Spartans up next after BYU pounded Idaho 52-13 Saturday night at snow-filled LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The rematch of last year’s tougher-than-it-looked 29-16 win over SJSU for BYU is this Saturday at 30,456-seat Spartan Stadium. Kickoff is at 8:30 MST, and it was announced Sunday that the game will be televised by ESPN2.
San Jose State is one of the hottest teams in the country, having walloped New Mexico State 47-7 on Saturday in Las Cruces for its fourth-straight win and fifth-straight road win. Quarterback David Fales threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns and has matched a 31-year-old school record for touchdown passes in a season with 25.
The Spartans’ only two losses were 20-17 to No. 14 Stanford and 49-27 to 8-2 Utah State.
In many respects, this is the Spartans’ bowl game, a contest coach Mike MacIntyre’s team has been pointing to since last year’s loss in Provo.
“We just want to keep winning,” MacIntyre told the San Jose Mercury News after Saturday’s blowout of NMSU, the Spartans’ largest margin of victory since a win over Southern Utah in 2000.
So does BYU, but the Cougars already have a bowl bid in their back pocket, having accepted an invitation to play in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 20 against a Mountain West Conference team.
Playing without two defensive starters — booted safety Joe Sampson and suspended cornerback Jordan Johnson — BYU was OK against punchless Idaho. But SJSU’s Fales will arguably be the best throwing quarterback the Cougars will face this season, and Noel Grigsby (58 catches for 914 yards and seven touchdowns) one of the best receivers.
Craig Bills played in Sampson’s place and senior Robbie Buckner filled in for Johnson. With another safety, Mike Hague, out for the season with a leg injury, the Cougars’ ability to play their nickel defense has been weakened considerably. They gave up 212 passing yards to Idaho.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Johnson was serving a one-game suspension for “discipline” reasons and will play against SJSU. Sampson and backup linebacker Zac Stout were suspended for the remainder of the season and subsequently withdrew from school for their involvement in a Halloween night altercation at Rancherito’s, a 24-hour restaurant in Provo.
Surveillance video shows that Johnson was also at the restaurant during the fight, but Mendenhall did not say whether his suspension was related to that incident or not.
“I’ve been really saddened by [the suspensions],” Mendenhall said after the Idaho game. “I care a lot for every one of my players, so when they make a poor choice or two it hurts, especially when I’ve built strong relationships with them and I care as much or more about them as I did before. I’m really committed to help them.”
Mendenhall said Stout, a sophomore, can apply for readmission to BYU a year from January, but didn’t sound optimistic.
San Jose State offense
Category National rank Actual
Total offense 36th 444.70
Passing offense 9th 325.80
Rushing offense 105th 118.90
Scoring offense 31st 35.10
BYU at San Jose State
P Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MST, TV • ESPN2