Defense comes up short in CSU football’s 34-27 loss to San Jose State

CSUSHS-46Burns sting. Especially when it keeps happening in the same spot, as it did on Saturday for the CSU defense.

San Jose State piled up 608 offensive yards against the Rams in its 34-27 victory at Hughes. Two-thirds of those yards came in the air, as the CSU secondary continued to give up big-yardage play after big-yardage play.

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Those big plays gave Spartans quarterback David Fales 431 passing yards and three touchdowns, one of which an 83-yard bomb to running back Jarrod Lawson. Lawson racked up more individual yardage than the entirety of the CSU rushing offense with 202, and he was not the only one making a splash for SJSU.

Prior to playing the Rams, Fales had 39 rushing yards through five games. On Saturday he rushed for 46 yards, more than the CSU’s second and third-leading rushers, Donnell Alexander and Chris Nwoke.

Coach Jim McElwain’s quiet demeanor at the postgame press conference told the story of the defeat he felt more than if he had showed up yelling. It is seldom that he doesn’t have something to say.

“It’s very disappointing, I can’t say a lot of words about it,” he said. “I feel sick for the homecoming crowd that came out to support these guys, and we didn’t send them home with a win.”

The biggest issue, and one that has plagued the Rams from game one, is mistakes when teams go deep. The CSU defensive backs were continually caught off guard, despite Fales completing the same play over and over again, albeit putting the ball in different hands.

“We knew in the first couple of series that they were going to be doing the same stuff that they’ve been doing,” Fales said of the CSU defense. “We just stuck with our game plan. This isn’t new, it’s just how we play.”

The burned coverage, coupled with missed tackles meant CSU came up short. And that isn’t how they want to play. McElwain confirmed that the goals he set for his team at the start of the season are still the same, but they will need to change something if they want to achieve them.

Since the players expressed confidence in the play calls and game plans made for them by their coaches, the problems must be coming with execution and consistency. The defense that held the No. 1 offense in the nation to 338 yards was not the same one that allowed a 2-3 team to put up double that many.

“Of course we are mad, but we have to keep practicing to prevent big plays,” Linebacker Cory James said. “We have to fix those missed tackles and busted coverage, we just have to stay focused.”

The team certainly has their work cut out for them this week in practice, because they will face another dangerous man under center against Wyoming. Brett Smith has burned more than his share of Division I secondaries, but McElwain isn’t planning on giving him that chance.

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“We never did take control of it, that’s the story of the ball game,” McElwain said. “The next step is go learn from it, we have to go steal some off the road. I’m not going to hit the panic button; we are doing some good things, just not enough.”

Football Beat Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at sports@collegian.com.