SAN JOSE -- San Jose State's two biggest questions entering the season got positive answers Thursday night as the Spartans opened with a 42-10 win over North Dakota at Spartan Stadium.

Quarterback Blake Jurich delivered in his starting debut, even if the comfortable victory before 10,371 fans came against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

Jurich, a fifth-year senior who had only thrown 20 passes in his collegiate career entering the night, was efficient and effective. He completed 22 of 25 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for a score.

"I've been working for five years here," Jurich said. "Ever since high school this has always been a dream of mine. It feels really good."

The defense, much maligned during a disappointing 2013 season, showed improved tackling and ability to rally to the ball, traits that were missing even when San Jose State opened last year with a shutout win over Sacramento State.

"We wanted to make sure we got 11 guys to the ball at all times and played our hearts out because we've got depth now," said senior safety Forrest Hightower, who had 2½ tackles for loss.

The Spartans won back-to-back season openers for the first time since the 2002 and 2003 seasons and can take a measure of confidence into their preparations for next week's showdown with SEC monster Auburn.

San Jose State seemed to keep the game plan rather simple for Jurich with a steady diet of runs and short passes.


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"It's important trying to get off to a good start and he did," coach Ron Caragher said of Jurich. "He made some good decisions. He threw the ball well. His choice-making was good and then we saw him tuck the ball. You always want that confidence and not only does he gain confidence but the team gains confidence in him."

The Spartans impressed in several categories in which they struggled the past two years even with David Fales at the helm.

SJSU converted on its first six third-down plays and was 7 of 11 on the night. Even better was its red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on all five trips inside the 20-yard line.

The Spartans scored touchdowns on their first three drives. Jurich had a key 20-yard run on third down on the opening drive, which ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Winston.

Jurich scored on a 3-yard run on the next possession on a play in which he had options. As he rolled to the right, there was nobody within 15 yards of himself and tight end Billy Freeman in the end zone, and he took the easy rushing score.

The Spartans' first forced turnover of the season came when Garrett Guanella pressured North Dakota's Joe Mollberg, and Mollberg's hurried pass was intercepted by Cleveland Wallace III.

Jurich added his second touchdown pass of the first half when he finished off a 15-play, 81-yard drive with a 3-yard toss to fullback Shane Smith.

Freshman running back Brandon Monroe's first career touchdown came in the third quarter, and a 40-yard punt return for a score by Tyler Ervin pushed it out of reach at 35-3.

  • Ervin, who was injured in last year's opener and never returned, brought some fire back to San Jose State's return game. He nearly broke a punt return for a score before being tripped up after a gain of 33 yards. His touchdown came on his next return. It was SJSU's first punt return for a touchdown since Dwight Lowery in 2007 and was Ervin's fourth career special teams TD, adding to his three kick returns.

  • Winston had 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Dating back to last year, it was his third straight game with 10 receptions.

  • This was Jurich's second game with both a rushing and passing touchdown. He also accomplished it against UC Davis in 2012.

  • Starting cornerback Jimmy Pruitt didn't suit up with a lingering bruised knee injury suffered in the team's Aug. 16 scrimmage. Wallace started in his place. Wide receiver Jabari Carr suited up but did not play. He's missed some time during camp with undisclosed injuries.

    For more San Jose State coverage, visit the SpartanCentral blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sjsu. Follow Jimmy Durkin on Twitter at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.

    SEPT. 6 GAME
    SJSU (1-0) at Auburn (0-0), 4 p.m. ESPN2