San Jose State aims for Thanksgiving redemption vs. rival Fresno State

There’s no point in denying that San Jose State failed to meet expectations in 2021.

Coming off an unbeaten regular season to claim the program’s first Mountain West title, the Spartans fell flat multiple times this fall as the hype from an unprecedented campaign didn’t deliver a worthy encore performance.

All is not lost, though.

Thanksgiving Day is a chance for repentance at San Jose State (5-6, 3-4 Mountain West), which faces a must-win scenario to qualify for back-to-back bowl games for the first time in 35 years.

Standing in the way is none other than rival Fresno State in the eighth rendition for the Battle of the Valley Trophy (Fresno State holds a 42-38-3 edge in the series history overall).

“I don’t love where we’re at right now in terms of our record,” San Jose State coach Brent Brennan said. “I think that’s disappointing for everybody involved with Spartan football because we did have high expectations, so this game is huge for us.”

Brennan, in his fifth season at the helm, could’ve left last winter for a higher-profile position.

The Bay Area native opted to roll it back with a nearly intact starting lineup, including the entire defense anchored by last year’s Mountain West defensive player of the year Cade Hall, a defensive end out of nearby Bellarmine College Prep.

With one year of eligibility left, Hall won’t announce if he’ll return for 2022 until the season is over.

He remembers the end of 2019 at CEFCU Stadium, when San Jose State defeated Fresno State, 17-16. It helped the Spartans finish 5-7 overall, already eliminated from postseason consideration.

“We lost to UNLV the second-to-last game of the season and that was it,” Hall said. “We had no bowl game left to play, so from my perspective, I’m just thankful that we still have a shot to get into the postseason and it’s Fresno State of all teams.”

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Fresno State, along with the rest of the upper-echelon teams in the Mountain West such as Boise State, Nevada and San Diego State, frequently finds itself in bowl games. The Spartans aim to join that group, and back-to-back appearances would be a start.

Sixth-year quarterback Nick Starkel, an SEC transfer, missed five games in October with what’s to be believed to be a broken left collarbone.

He reinvigorated the program last year while dealing with COVID-19 protocols, but has been hit-and-miss this time around with at least one interception in each of his six games on the field.

“At the end of the day, our expectations were to come back and to win every game and to win a Mountain West championship – and we did not meet our expectations,” Starkel said. “I think everybody would tell you that. Now, I am proud of how these guys have fought. I’m really proud of how we got to practice every day, how we’re continuing to work, how we’re continuing to fight towards a common goal, which is to beat these guys this week and go bowl eligible.”

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Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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