SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Sacramento State football team was able to control time of possession and keep San Jose State's David Fales in check but could not find its way into the scoring column in a 24-0 loss at San Jose State on Thursday night at Spartan Stadium.
The Hornets picked up three more first downs than SJSU (18-15) and held the ball for 36:08 of the game but it was the quick-strike ability of the Spartans which did the damage. San Jose State turned a pair of interceptions into 10 points, added seven more following a missed field goal and tacked on a 55-yard touchdown run from Jason Simpson en route to its eighth-straight victory dating back to last season. The Spartan defense also did its job, stopping Sacramento State twice inside the 10-yard line during the second half.
"I thought we played the game all the way through which was nice to see," Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck said. "We had some tough moments but our guys battled through it and fought until the end.
Sacramento State was plagued by missed opportunities throughout the first half. The team had a chance to strike but Safron's pass to Morris Norrise was underthrown and batted down inside the 5-yard line. On the next play, Safron's third down pass was intercepted by Bene Benwikere and returned 33 yards to the Hornet 32-yard line.
The defense was able to keep SJSU out of the end zone but Austin Lopez connected on a 37-yard field goal for the game's first points.
San Jose State added to its lead early in the second quarter when Fales hit Chandler Jones for a 31-yard touchdown pass. That scoring drive was set up after Safron was intercepted by Sean Linton at the San Jose 17-yard line. Jones also had a 46-yard reception during the drive.
Sacramento State's best chance to score in the first half came late in the quarter when the team put together a 13-play, 60-yard drive. The Hornets picked up four first downs during the drive but drew a delay of game call on 4th-and-1 and had to attempt a 46-yard field goal. The snap was bobbled on the play and Jesse Aguilar's first career attempt was blocked by Dashein Frierson.
The Spartans used the remaining time to drive 71 yards for a touchdown capped by a 15-yard pass from Fales to Noel Grigsby.
The Hornets found their rhythm on both sides of the ball in the second half, outgunning SJSU, 171-156. The lone points of the half came from Simpson midway through the third quarter. On the 3rd-and-4 play, he took the handoff and momentarily headed right before switching directions and breaking away from the defense.
Sacramento State had scoring opportunities on its three opening series of the second half. The first drive ended when Aguilar missed a 45-yard field goal following a bobbled hold. The second took the team down to the 2-yard line but Safron's 4th-down pass attempt fell incomplete just outside the goal line. The final opportunity came early in the fourth quarter where the offense moved the ball to the 3 yard line only to be called for a false start which moved the ball back five yards. On another fourth-down attempt, Safron tried to find Morris Norrise in the center of the end zone but the senior receiver became tangled with the defender and could not reach the pass.
Safron completed 23-of-40 passes for 192 yards but matched his career high with a pair of interceptions. He spread his completions to nine players, led by Norrise, Graham and Blake Robertson who each caught four. Graham was also the team's leading rusher with 49 yards and finished the game with 129 all-purpose yards.
Fales, who led the FBS with a 75.0 completion percentage a year ago, was 16-of-32 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Jones caught a game-high eight passes for 130 yards and Simpson rushed for 135.
Robbie Kendall, Darnell Sankey, Todd Davis and Markell Williams each had seven tackles to lead Sacramento State. SJSU was paced by Keith Smith who had 18 stops.
Sacramento State will continue its stretch of midweek games against FBS opponents when it plays at Arizona State on Thursday, Sept. 5.
NOTES: The shutout was the first against the Hornets since falling at New Mexico (58-0) in 2007…Safron now ranks eighth in school history with 480 career pass attempts and is seventh with 293 career completions…Robertson matched his career high with four receptions…true freshman Stone Sander made his first collegiate reception with a 12-yard grab…Justin Weldon averaged 46.8 yards per punt on five attempts with a long of 55 and landed two inside the 20.