San Jose State

As well as Blake Jurich played, as sound as the defense looked, there aren't many takeaways from the victory over North Dakota.

That doesn't make the performance irrelevant, mind you.

Sure, SJSU walloped Sacramento State last year in the season opener, then waffled through the season. But look at it this way:

If the Spartans couldn't tackle North Dakota, they have little hope of tackling Nevada.

If they couldn't score touchdowns in the red zone against North Dakota, they have little chance of scoring touchdowns in the red zone against San Diego State.

Openers against FCS opposition rarely indicate what a team can do well, but they often expose what a team can't do well.

In that regard, the performance was encouraging for SJSU ...

Result: Beat North Dakota 42-10

Grade: B+ (Note: The grade is the best San Jose State, or Stanford or Cal, can do against FCS competition.)

Comment: The Spartans expected to be better defensively under Greg Robinson in regard to the basics: tackling, alignment and playing a system that makes best use of the talent.

That was all on display.

Of particular note: The Spartans got off the field when they were supposed to get off the field, holding North Dakota to 33 percent on third-down conversions.

  • Jurich was impressive, completing 22-of-25 passes for 250 yards and three TDs.


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    Will it translate? Who knows.

    In every regard ... from the ferocity of the pass rush to the closing speed of the cornerbacks ... this was essentially a glorified scrimmage for Jurich.

    But as with the defense, his performance was much better than the alternative.

  • The good: The Spartans converted all five of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns -- perhaps the most encouraging sign of 'em all -- were 7 of 11 on third down conversions.

    The bad: 3.8 yards per rush.

  • Can't help but think Tyler Ervin's presence on punt returns could have a ripple effect on the offense.

    With a retooled offensive line and rookie starting quarterback, field position is vital. A first-class punt returner could do wonders in that regard, especially in reducing the number of times the Spartans are pinned back.

    Every drive that starts at the 24 instead of the 14, for example, is vital.

    Next up: at Auburn

    The matchup: All you need to know is the Spartans opened as a 29-point underdog, and the line is climbing.

    They might catch the Tigers snoozing with a ranked opponent on the schedule next week (Kansas State). If that's the case, SJSU has a chance to hang around for a quarter or two.

    But the challenges on both sides of the ball -- stopping Auburn's spread option and blocking Auburn's defense -- are too great for SJSU to make a game of it well into the second half.

    (Don't forget about the weather: It's supposed to be 90 and humid Saturday, with thunderstorms possible.)

    Then again, this experience is about the experience ... and the paycheck, of course: The Spartans will receive $3.1 million for two games on The Plains.

    Given what that revenue can do for the SJSU athletic department with cost-of-attendance expenses looming, there's only one way this becomes a mistake:

    If the Spartans suffer enough serious injuries to significant players that it limits their ability to compete in the Mountain West.

    They can't let one game turn into four or five losses.